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How to remove the Matryoshka ransomware?

Also Known As: Matryoshka virus
Damage level: Severe

What is Matryoshka?

Ransomware is a form of malware that makes files inaccessible by encrypting them. Usually, victims cannot decrypt files without a decryption tool that can be provided only by the attackers.

Matryoshka encrypts and renames files. It appends the ".matryoshka" extension to their filenames.

For example, it renames a file named "1.jpg" to "1.jpg.matryoshka", "2.jpg" to "2.jpg.matryoshka", and so forth.

Matryoshka displays a pop-up window as its ransom note. It contains instructions on how to pay for data decryption and other information.

As stated in Matryoshka's ransom note, this ransomware encrypts files with military-grade encryption algorithms. Therefore, it is impossible to decrypt files without the help of cybercriminals who created Matryoshka.

A victim can decrypt encrypted data for $75. They need to send the equivalent amount of Monero (XMR) cryptocurrency to the provided wallet address. It is mentioned that the transaction has to be made within twenty days from the attack because, after that, encrypted files will be deleted.

After the transaction, victims are promised to get access to their files back. If there are any problems with the payment, victims can contact the attackers via the matryoshka.iosef@airmail.cc email address.

A ransom note is available in English and Russian languages. It is important to know that cybercriminals behind ransomware attacks cannot be trusted - it is common that victims do not receive any decryption software, key even if they meet all their demands (pay a ransom).

Therefore, it is advisable not to trust cybercriminals behind Matryoshka as well. Unfortunately, most ransomware variants encrypt files with strong encryption algorithms, which means victims cannot recover files without the right decryption tools.

In such cases, the only way to recover files for free is to restore them from a backup. Although, victims must have a data backup that was created before the attack.

It is important to mention that installed ransomware can encrypt new files and infect other computers on the same network. Therefore, it should be uninstalled from the infected system as soon as possible.

Screenshot of a message encouraging users to pay a ransom to decrypt their compromised data:

Matryoshka decrypt instructions (pop-up window)

Ransomware is a type of malware that keeps files inaccessible until they are decrypted using a tool purchased from the attackers. The two most common differences between ransomware variants are cryptographic algorithms (symmetric or asymmetric) that they use to block access to files and the price of decryption.

It is possible to decrypt files for free when ransomware has some bugs, flaws (vulnerabilities), or when there is some free decryption tool available for download on the Internet. However, most of the times, the only free data recovery option is to restore files from a backup.

Therefore, it is recommended to have files backed up and keep them on a remote server or unplugged storage device. A couple of examples of other ransomware variants are Eye, Cesar, and Igvm.

How did ransomware infect my computer?

Usually, cybercriminals distribute malware (including ransomware) through trojans, emails, unreliable sources for downloading download programs or files, fake software updaters, and unofficial software activation ('cracking') tools. Trojans are malicious programs that can be designed to install their payload.

Typically, trojans are disguised as legitimate programs. After installation, they infect computers with additional malware.

Another popular way to deliver malware is to send malicious files or malicious links via email. Examples of malicious files that cybercriminals send via email are Microsoft Office, PDF documents, JavaScript files, archive files like ZIP, RAR, and executable files (like .exe).

Recipients infect computers when they execute malicious files downloaded via email received from cybercriminals. Furthermore, malware can get installed via files, programs downloaded via Peer-to-Peer networks (torrent clients, eMule, etc.), unofficial pages, free file hosting, freeware download websites, third-party downloaders, etc.

It gets installed when users open malicious files. In order to trick users into downloading malicious files, cybercriminals disguise them as legitimate.

Third-party (unofficial) software updaters infect computers by installing malware instead of updates, fixes for installed programs, or by exploiting bugs and flaws of outdated software. As a rule, these fake updaters are designed to look like the official ones.

Unofficial activation ('cracking') tools infect computers when they are bundled with malware. It is common that such tools are malicious because they are rarely of zero benefit to their developers.

Threat Summary:
Name Matryoshka virus
Threat Type Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
Encrypted Files Extension .matryoshka
Ransom Demanding Message Pop-up window
Ransom Amount $75 (in Monero cryptocurrency)
XMR Wallet Address 47NVMZew49WYxzHGQUJZARRXu38ydxCyj4iXPn69jL5xXvitL8wyq7yVpYcfNxs6M5ckDdpJdpMbP7buEqtNs1FE15wmby4
Cyber Criminal Contact matryoshka.iosef@airmail.cc
Detection Names Avast (Win32:Malware-gen), BitDefender (Gen:Heur.Ransom.HiddenTears.1), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of MSIL/Filecoder.IX), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.MSIL.Encoder.gen), Microsoft (Ransom:MacOS/Filecoder), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Cannot open files stored on your computer, previously functional files now have a different extension (for example, my.docx.locked). A ransom demand message is displayed on your desktop. Cyber criminals demand payment of a ransom (usually in bitcoins) to unlock your files.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments (macros), torrent websites, malicious ads.
Damage All files are encrypted and cannot be opened without paying a ransom. Additional password-stealing trojans and malware infections can be installed together with a ransomware infection.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?

Installed programs (and the operating system) have to be updated or activated with tools or functions provided by their official developers. They should never be updated or activate with third-party (unofficial) tools.

It is very common that such tools are bundled with malware. Also, it not legal to activate licensed software with unofficial tools.

Files attached to irrelevant emails (or website links) that are received from unknown, suspicious addresses can be used to trick recipients into installing malware. Therefore, emails (files, links in them) should not be trusted.

It is important to know that most cybercriminals disguise their emails as official, important letters from legitimate companies. Programs (and files) should be downloaded from official, trustworthy websites.

It is common that Peer-to-Peer networks, unofficial pages, third party downloaders, free file hosting sites, etc., are used to distribute malicious files/programs. Computers should be scanned for viruses and other threats regularly.

It is advisable to scan them with a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software. If your computer is already infected with Matryoshka, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.

Appearance of the Matryoshka ransomware's ransom note (GIF):

matryoshka ransomware ransom note appearance

Text presented in this ransom note:

English:

Ooops!!!
You have been infected by Matryoshka Ransomware.
Read all instructions carefully to recover files.

What is Matryoshka Ransomware?
Ransomware is a computer program that encrypts files with military grade cryptography algorithms. This means you cannot decrypt it alone, you need creators of such virus to decrypt for you.

Matryoshka has infected you and your files are now encrypted. Good news! We can decrypt for you. That, however, comes with small price: $75 (seventy five US dollars). Very cheap, yes? Other ransomwares charge up to $1000, we are being generous!

You are advised to pay the fee within 20 days of infection (as seen on left of window). If demand is not met, all encrypted files are deleted FOREVER.

Things you must know
Only Matryoshka Team (Йосеф and Алик) can decrypt your files. Any attempt you do is futile. If you delete this program, you never recover files!!! Uninstall or stop your antivirus or it may remove Matryoshka and, by consequence, your files. Immediately.

How to pay
You pay the fee using cryptocurrency. No worries, it is easy! We only accept Monero for payment because is very private and your information is not leaked. You can buy Monero on sites online, like Binance.

To buy cryptocurrency Monero (XMR), you need wallet. When buying Monero from Binance for example it will create the wallet for you. The wallet is how we identify your computer and unlock your files.

Go on Google to learn more of how to buy XMR (Monero).

YOU MUST SEND PAYMENT TO THE WALLET BELOW:

47NVMZew49WYxzHGQUJZARRXu38ydxCyj4iXPn69jL 5xXvitL8wyq7yVpYcfNxs6M5ckDdpJdpMbP7buEqtNs1FE15wmby4

How are files unlocked
When you send payment, it takes a little time (around 30 minutes) to the Blockchain to register it. You will then need to insert your wallet (is 95 characters long) in this program on the payment field below, and press "CONFIRM". But be careful, if you specify wrong wallet, it will be bad and you will not be able to recover your files! We have program running to check payments, when you confirm that you have sent it our server receives information and will wait to see if payment is received.

Encryption keys are stored in our server, you do not have access. When payment is confirmed, the program gets the key and performs decryption unlocking your precious files.

This program asks the server if payment is received every 10 minutes. If yes, then files are recovered, decrypted, everything is fixed and this program is gone. If you have any problem, email us at matryoshka.iosef@airmail.cc and we provide support. Only email if problem is with payment confirmation delay!

Russian:

Ой!!!
Вы были заражены программой Матрёшка Рансомваре.
Внимательно прочитайте все инструкции, чтобы восстановить файлы.

Что такое Матрёшка Рансомваре?
Рансомваре - это компьютерная программа, которая шифрует файлы с помощью криптографических алгоритмов военного класса. Это означает, что мы должны расшифровать их для вас.

Матрёшка заразила вас, и теперь ваши файлы зашифрованы. Хорошие новости! Мы можем расшифровать их для вас. Однако за это придется заплатить небольшую цену: $75 (семьдесят пять долларов США). Очень дешево, да? Другие выкупные программы берут до 1000 долларов, мы же проявляем щедрость!

Вам рекомендуется внести плату в течение 20 дней после заражения (как показано в левой части окна). Если требование не будет выполнено, все ваши зашифрованные файлы будут удалены НАВСЕГДА.

Вещи которые вы должны знать
Только команда Матрёшка Группа (Йосеф и Алик) может расшифровать ваши файлы. Если вы удалите эту программу, вы никогда не сможете восстановить свои файлы! Удалите или остановите работу вашего антивируса, иначе он может удалить Матрешку и, как следствие, ваши файлы.

Как оплатить
Вы оплачиваете услугу с помощью криптовалюты. Не беспокойтесь, это просто! Мы принимаем только Monero в качестве способа оплаты, потому что это безопасно и ваша информация не будет передана. Вы можете купить Monero на сайтах в Интернете, таких как Binance.

Чтобы купить криптовалюту Monero (XMR), вам нужен кошелек. При покупке Monero на Binance, например, он создаст для вас кошелек. Кошелек - это то, как мы идентифицируем ваш компьютер и разблокируем ваши файлы.

Поищите в Google, чтобы узнать больше о том, как купить XMR (Monero).

ВЫ ДОЛЖНЫ ОТПРАВИТЬ ОПЛАТУ НА УКАЗАННЫЙ НИЖЕ КОШЕЛЕК:

47NVMZew49WYxzHGQUJZARRXu38ydxCyj4iXPn69jL 5xXvitL8wyq7yVpYcfNxs6M5ckDdpJdpMbP7buEqtNs1FE15wmby4

Как разблокируются файлы
Когда вы отправите платеж, блокчейну потребуется около 30 минут, чтобы зарегистрировать его. Затем вам нужно будет вставить свой кошелек (он состоит из 95 символов) в этой программе в поле платежа внизу и нажать кнопку подтверждения. Но будьте осторожны, если вы укажете неправильный кошелек, вы не сможете восстановить свои файлы! На нашем сервере запущена программа для проверки платежей, когда вы подтверждаете отправку, наш сервер получает информацию и будет ждать поступления платежа.

Ключи шифрования хранятся на нашем сервере, у вас нет к ним доступа. Когда платеж подтвержден, программа получает ключ с сервера и выполняет дешифровку, разблокируя ваши драгоценные файлы.

Программа запрашивает сервер, получен ли платеж, каждые 10 минут. Если да, то ваши файлы восстановлены, расшифрованы, все исправлено и эта программа исчезла. Если у вас возникли проблемы, напишите нам по адресу matryoshka.iosef@airmail.cc, и мы окажем поддержку. Пишите нам только в том случае, если проблема связана с задержкой подтверждения платежа!

Screenshot of files encrypted by Matryoshka (".matryoshka" extension):

Files encrypted by Matryoshka ransomware (.matryoshka extension)

Matryoshka ransomware removal:

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Video suggesting what steps should be taken in case of a ransomware infection:

Quick menu:

Reporting ransomware to authorities:

If you are a victim of a ransomware attack we recommend reporting this incident to authorities. By providing information to law enforcement agencies you will help track cybercrime and potentially assist in the prosecution of the attackers. Here's a list of authorities where you should report a ransomware attack. For the complete list of local cybersecurity centers and information on why you should report ransomware attacks, read this article.

List of local authorities where ransomware attacks should be reported (choose one depending on your residence address):

Isolating the infected device:

Some ransomware-type infections are designed to encrypt files within external storage devices, infect them, and even spread throughout the entire local network. For this reason, it is very important to isolate the infected device (computer) as soon as possible.

Step 1: Disconnect from the internet.

The easiest way to disconnect a computer from the internet is to unplug the Ethernet cable from the motherboard, however, some devices are connected via a wireless network and for some users (especially those who are not particularly tech-savvy), disconnecting cables may seem troublesome. Therefore, you can also disconnect the system manually via Control Panel:

Navigate to the "Control Panel", click the search bar in the upper-right corner of the screen, enter "Network and Sharing Center" and select search result: Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 1)

Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window: Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 2)

Right-click on each connection point and select "Disable". Once disabled, the system will no longer be connected to the internet. To re-enable the connection points, simply right-click again and select "Enable". Disconnecting computer from the Internet (step 3)

Step 2: Unplug all storage devices.

As mentioned above, ransomware might encrypt data and infiltrate all storage devices that are connected to the computer. For this reason, all external storage devices (flash drives, portable hard drives, etc.) should be disconnected immediately, however, we strongly advise you to eject each device before disconnecting to prevent data corruption:

Navigate to "My Computer", right-click on each connected device, and select "Eject": Ejecting external storage devices

Step 3: Log-out of cloud storage accounts.

Some ransomware-type might be able to hijack software that handles data stored within "the Cloud". Therefore, the data could be corrupted/encrypted. For this reason, you should log-out of all cloud storage accounts within browsers and other related software. You should also consider temporarily uninstalling the cloud-management software until the infection is completely removed.

Identify the ransomware infection:

To properly handle an infection, one must first identify it. Some ransomware infections use ransom-demand messages as an introduction (see the WALDO ransomware text file below).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 1)

This, however, is rare. In most cases, ransomware infections deliver more direct messages simply stating that data is encrypted and that victims must pay some sort of ransom. Note that ransomware-type infections typically generate messages with different file names (for example, "_readme.txt", "READ-ME.txt", "DECRYPTION_INSTRUCTIONS.txt", "DECRYPT_FILES.html", etc.). Therefore, using the name of a ransom message may seem like a good way to identify the infection. The problem is that most of these names are generic and some infections use the same names, even though the delivered messages are different and the infections themselves are unrelated. Therefore, using the message filename alone can be ineffective and even lead to permanent data loss (for example, by attempting to decrypt data using tools designed for different ransomware infections, users are likely to end up permanently damaging files and decryption will no longer be possible even with the correct tool).

Another way to identify a ransomware infection is to check the file extension, which is appended to each encrypted file. Ransomware infections are often named by the extensions they append (see files encrypted by Qewe ransomware below).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 2)

This method is only effective, however, when the appended extension is unique - many ransomware infections append a generic extension (for example, ".encrypted", ".enc", ".crypted", ".locked", etc.). In these cases, identifying ransomware by its appended extension becomes impossible.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to identify a ransomware infection is to use the ID Ransomware website. This service supports most existing ransomware infections. Victims simply upload a ransom message and/or one encrypted file (we advise you to upload both if possible).

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 3)

The ransomware will be identified within seconds and you will be provided with various details, such as the name of the malware family to which the infection belongs, whether it is decryptable, and so on.

Example 1 (Qewe [Stop/Djvu] ransomware):

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 4)

Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):

Identify ransomware-type infection (step 5)

If your data happens to be encrypted by ransomware that is not supported by ID Ransomware, you can always try searching the internet by using certain keywords (for example, a ransom message title, file extension, provided contact emails, crypto wallet addresses, etc.).

Search for ransomware decryption tools:

Encryption algorithms used by most ransomware-type infections are extremely sophisticated and, if the encryption is performed properly, only the developer is capable of restoring data. This is because decryption requires a specific key, which is generated during the encryption. Restoring data without the key is impossible. In most cases, cybercriminals store keys on a remote server, rather than using the infected machine as a host. Dharma (CrySis), Phobos, and other families of high-end ransomware infections are virtually flawless, and thus restoring data encrypted without the developers' involvement is simply impossible. Despite this, there are dozens of ransomware-type infections that are poorly developed and contain a number of flaws (for example, the use of identical encryption/decryption keys for each victim, keys stored locally, etc.). Therefore, always check for available decryption tools for any ransomware that infiltrates your computer.

Finding the correct decryption tool on the internet can be very frustrating. For this reason, we recommend that you use the No More Ransom Project and this is where identifying the ransomware infection is useful. The No More Ransom Project website contains a "Decryption Tools" section with a search bar. Enter the name of the identified ransomware, and all available decryptors (if there are any) will be listed.

Searching for ransomware decryption tools in nomoreransom.org website

Restore files with data recovery tools:

Depending on the situation (quality of ransomware infection, type of encryption algorithm used, etc.), restoring data with certain third-party tools might be possible. Therefore, we advise you to use the Recuva tool developed by CCleaner. This tool supports over a thousand data types (graphics, video, audio, documents, etc.) and it is very intuitive (little knowledge is necessary to recover data). In addition, the recovery feature is completely free.

Step 1: Perform a scan.

Run the Recuva application and follow the wizard. You will be prompted with several windows allowing you to choose what file types to look for, which locations should be scanned, etc. All you need to do is select the options you're looking for and start the scan. We advise you to enable the "Deep Scan" before starting, otherwise, the application's scanning capabilities will be restricted.

Recuva data recovery tool wizard

Wait for Recuva to complete the scan. The scanning duration depends on the volume of files (both in quantity and size) that you are scanning (for example, several hundred gigabytes could take over an hour to scan). Therefore, be patient during the scanning process. We also advise against modifying or deleting existing files, since this might interfere with the scan. If you add additional data (for example, downloading files/content) while scanning, this will prolong the process:

Recuva data recovery tool scan time

Step 2: Recover data.

Once the process is complete, select the folders/files you wish to restore and simply click "Recover". Note that some free space on your storage drive is necessary to restore data:

Recuva data recovery tool recovering data

Create data backups:

Proper file management and creating backups is essential for data security. Therefore, always be very careful and think ahead.

Partition management: We recommend that you store your data in multiple partitions and avoid storing important files within the partition that contains the entire operating system. If you fall into a situation whereby you cannot boot the system and are forced to format the disk on which the operating system is installed (in most cases, this is where malware infections hide), you will lose all data stored within that drive. This is the advantage of having multiple partitions: if you have the entire storage device assigned to a single partition, you will be forced to delete everything, however, creating multiple partitions and allocating the data properly allows you to prevent such problems. You can easily format a single partition without affecting the others - therefore, one will be cleaned and the others will remain untouched, and your data will be saved. Managing partitions is quite simple and you can find all the necessary information on Microsoft's documentation web page.

Data backups: One of the most reliable backup methods is to use an external storage device and keep it unplugged. Copy your data to an external hard drive, flash (thumb) drive, SSD, HDD, or any other storage device, unplug it and store it in a dry place away from the sun and extreme temperatures. This method is, however, quite inefficient, since data backups and updates need to be made regularly. You can also use a cloud service or remote server. Here, an internet connection is required and there is always the chance of a security breach, although it's a really rare occasion.

We recommend using Microsoft OneDrive for backing up your files. OneDrive lets you store your personal files and data in the cloud, sync files across computers and mobile devices, allowing you to access and edit your files from all of your Windows devices. OneDrive lets you save, share and preview files, access download history, move, delete, and rename files, as well as create new folders, and much more.

You can back up your most important folders and files on your PC (your Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders). Some of OneDrive’s more notable features include file versioning, which keeps older versions of files for up to 30 days. OneDrive features a recycling bin in which all of your deleted files are stored for a limited time. Deleted files are not counted as part of the user’s allocation.

The service is built using HTML5 technologies and allows you to upload files up to 300 MB via drag and drop into the web browser or up to 10 GB via the OneDrive desktop application. With OneDrive, you can download entire folders as a single ZIP file with up to 10,000 files, although it can’t exceed 15 GB per single download.

OneDrive comes with 5 GB of free storage out of the box, with an additional 100 GB, 1 TB, and 6 TB storage options available for a subscription-based fee. You can get one of these storage plans by either purchasing additional storage separately or with Office 365 subscription.

Creating a data backup:

The backup process is the same for all file types and folders. Here’s how you can back up your files using Microsoft OneDrive

Step 1: Choose the files/folders you want to backup.

Click the OneDrive icon in the taskbar

Click the OneDrive cloud icon to open the OneDrive menu. While in this menu, you can customize your file backup settings.

Select Help & Settings and click Settings

Click Help & Settings and then select Settings from the drop-down menu.

Select the Backup tab and click Manage backup

Go to the Backup tab and click Manage backup.

Select folders to backup and click Start backup

In this menu, you can choose to backup the Desktop and all of the files on it, and Documents and Pictures folders, again, with all of the files in them. Click Start backup.

Now, when you add a file or folder in the Desktop and Documents and Pictures folders, they will be automatically backed up on OneDrive.

To add folders and files, not in the locations shown above, you have to add them manually.

Select a file manually and copy it

Open File Explorer and navigate to the location of the folder/file you want to backup. Select the item, right-click it, and click Copy.

Paste the copied file in the OneDrive folder to create a backup

Then, navigate to OneDrive, right-click anywhere in the window and click Paste. Alternatively, you can just drag and drop a file into OneDrive. OneDrive will automatically create a backup of the folder/file.

File statuses in OneDrive folder

All of the files added to the OneDrive folder are backed up in the cloud automatically. The green circle with the checkmark in it indicates that the file is available both locally and on OneDrive and that the file version is the same on both. The blue cloud icon indicates that the file has not been synced and is available only on OneDrive. The sync icon indicates that the file is currently syncing.

Click Help & Settings and click View Online

To access files only located on OneDrive online, go to the Help & Settings drop-down menu and select View online.

Click the Settings cog and click Options

Step 2: Restore corrupted files.

OneDrive makes sure that the files stay in sync, so the version of the file on the computer is the same version on the cloud. However, if ransomware has encrypted your files, you can take advantage of OneDrive’s Version history feature that will allow you to restore the file versions prior to encryption.

Microsoft 365 has a ransomware detection feature that notifies you when your OneDrive files have been attacked and guide you through the process of restoring your files. It must be noted, however, that if you don’t have a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, you only get one detection and file recovery for free.

If your OneDrive files get deleted, corrupted, or infected by malware, you can restore your entire OneDrive to a previous state. Here’s how you can restore your entire OneDrive:

restore-your-onedrive

1. If you're signed in with a personal account, click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Options and select Restore your OneDrive.

If you're signed in with a work or school account,  click the Settings cog at the top of the page. Then, click Restore your OneDrive.

2. On the Restore your OneDrive page, select a date from the drop-down list. Note that if you're restoring your files after automatic ransomware detection, a restore date will be selected for you.

3. After configuring all of the file restoration options, click Restore to undo all the activities you selected.

The best way to avoid damage from ransomware infections is to maintain regular up-to-date backups.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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