What is HARDBIT ransomware?
HARDBIT is a piece of malicious software categorized as ransomware. It is designed to encrypt data and demand payment for the decryption.
Once we executed a sample of HARDBIT on our test system, it began encrypting files and modified their titles. Original filenames were appended with a unique ID, the cyber criminals' email address, and a ".hardbit" extension. For example, a file initially titled "1.jpg" appeared as "1.jpg.[id-GSD557NO60].[firstname.lastname@example.org].hardbit".
Afterward, HARDBIT changed the desktop wallpaper and created two files "Help_me_for_Decrypt.hta" (pop-up) and "How To Restore Your Files.txt" - all of which contain ransom notes.
Screenshot of files encrypted by HARDBIT ransomware:
HARDBIT ransomware overview
HARDBIT's wallpaper informs victims that their data has been encrypted and sensitive content was exfiltrated. This message also urges to initiate contact with the attackers - otherwise, the stolen data will be sold on the dark web.
The notes in the pop-up and text file provide significantly more information about the ransomware infection. The pop-up window states that victims have two days to begin communication/ pay - as afterward, the ransom will increase twice in size. Both messages indicate that victims can test decryption on two files before paying. They also contain extensive warnings against actions that can result in permanent data loss or increased victims' financial losses.
Based on our extensive experience researching ransomware infections, we can conclude that decryption is usually impossible without the cyber criminals' interference.
Furthermore, despite meeting the ransom demands - victims commonly do not receive the decryption tools. Therefore, we strongly advise against paying and thus inadvertently supporting this illegal activity.
Removing HARDBIT ransomware from the operating system will prevent it from encrypting more data. Unfortunately, removal will not restore already compromised files. The sole solution is recovering them from a backup, if one was created beforehand and is stored elsewhere.
Hence, we highly recommend keeping backups in multiple separate locations (e.g., remote servers, unplugged storage devices, etc.) - to ensure data safety.
However, while this malware operates practically identically throughout, ransomware-type programs have two major differences in-between - the cryptographic algorithms they use (symmetric or asymmetric) and the ransom size. The latter can vary drastically depending on whether the intended victims are home users or large entities (e.g., companies, organizations, institutions, etc.).
How did ransomware infect my computer?
Ransomware and other malware are primarily proliferated using phishing and social engineering tactics. Malicious software is typically presented as or bundled with regular programs/media.
The most popular malware distribution techniques include: online scams, malicious attachments and links in spam emails/messages, drive-by (stealthy/deceptive) downloads, dubious download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), fake updates, and malvertising.
|Threat Type||Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker|
|Encrypted Files Extension||.hardbit|
|Ransom Demanding Message||Text presented on the desktop wallpaper and pop-up (Help_me_for_Decrypt.hta), and How To Restore Your Files.txt|
|Free Decryptor Available?||No|
|Cyber Criminal Contact||Tox messenger, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Detection Names||Avast (Win32:Trojan-gen), Combo Cleaner (Trojan.Crypt.Gen.1), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of MSIL/TrojanDropper.Agent.), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan.MSIL.DelShad.gen), Microsoft (Trojan:Win32/Wacatac.B!ml), 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)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
How to protect yourself from ransomware infections?
We highly recommend being vigilant with incoming mail. The attachments/links found in suspect emails and messages - must not be opened since they can be malicious and cause infections. We also recommend caution when browsing since fraudulent and dangerous content usually appears legitimate.
Additionally, it is essential to download only from official and verified channels. We advise activating and updating software only with legitimate tools, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updaters may contain malware.
We must emphasize the importance of having a reputable anti-virus installed and kept up-to-date. Security programs must be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats. If your computer is already infected with HARDBIT, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.
Screenshot of HARDBIT ransomware's pop-up window "Help_me_for_Decrypt.hta":
Text presented in this pop-up:
!!ALL YOUR IMPORTANT FILES ARE STOLEN AND ENCRYPTED!!
All your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC.
If you want to restore them, please send your ID for us
Our contact information is written in file (HOW TO RESTORE YOUR FILES).
Please read this file carefully so as not to make a mistake.
You have to 48 hours(2 Days) To contact or paying us After that, you have to Pay Double.
We need your ID and your ID is written below the help file
Please do not touch the Key written under the help file in any way, otherwise the consequences will be with you
Introducing TOX messengers
•You can download and install TOX message from this link hxxps://tox.chat/
•Our ID in TOX: 77A904360EA7D74268E7A4F316865F1703D 2D7A6AF28C9ECFACED69CD09C8610FF2C728E6A33.
•We are ready to answer your questions!
•If you have information about the company and its servers, share with us in TOX and receive a share from us when they pay. Don't worry, your identity will remain hidden.
Is there a guarantee for decryption after payment?
•Before paying you can send us up to 2 test files for free decryption. The total size of files must be less than 1Mb (non archived), and files should not contain valuable information. (databases,backups, large excel sheets, etc.)
•DO NOT trust anyone except the email and the TOX ID that is in the help file, otherwise we will not be responsible for the consequences.
•DO NOT rename encrypted files.
•DO NOT try to decrypt or manipulate the files yourself.
•Do Not contact intermediary companies. They don't do anything special, they just message us and give us money and get the key, but if our price was $50,000, they will charge $70,000 from you.
•Do not pay any money for the test file.
•Before manipulating the files, be sure to make a backup of them, otherwise it is your responsibility.
Appearance of HARDBIT ransomware's text file "How To Restore Your Files.txt" (GIF):
Text presented in this file:
_ _ _____ ___ ___ ___ _ _____
| | ( )| _ || _ \ ( _ \ ( _ \ (_)(_ _)
| |_| || (_) || (_) )| | ) || (_) )| | | |
| _ || _ || / | | | || _ ( | | | |
| | | || | | || |\ \ | |_) || (_) )| | | |
(_) |_||_| |_||_| (_)(____/ (____/ |_| |_|
All your files have been stolen and then encrypted. But don't worry, everything is safe and will be returned to you.
How can I get my files back?
You have to pay us to get the files back. We don't have bank or paypal accounts, you only have to pay us via Bitcoin.
How can I buy bitcoins?
You can buy bitcoins from all reputable sites in the world and send them to us. Just search how to buy bitcoins on the internet. Our suggestion is these sites.
What is your guarantee to restore files?
Its just a business. We absolutely do not care about you and your deals, except getting benefits. If we do not do our work and liabilities - nobody will cooperate with us. Its not in our interests.
To check the ability of returning files, you can send to us any 2 files with SIMPLE extensions(jpg,xls,doc, etc... not databases!) and low sizes(max 1 mb), we will decrypt them and send back to you.
That is our guarantee.
How to contact with you?
You can contact us by email:>>email@example.com@cyberfear.com<;<
How will the payment process be after payment?
After payment, we will send you the decryption tool along with the guide and we will be with you until the last file is decrypted.
What happens if I don't pay you?
If you don't pay us, you will never have access to your files because the private key is only in our hands. This transaction is not important to us,
but it is important to you, because not only do you not have access to your files, but you also lose time. And the more time passes, the more you will lose and
If you do not pay the ransom, we will attack your company again in the future.
What are your recommendations?
- Never change the name of the files, if you want to manipulate the files, make sure you make a backup of them. If there is a problem with the files, we are not responsible for it.
- Never work with intermediary companies, because they charge more money from you. For example, if we ask you for 50,000 dollars, they will tell you 55,000 dollars. Don't be afraid of us, just call us.
Very important! For those who have cyber insurance against ransomware attacks.
Insurance companies require you to keep your insurance information secret, this is to never pay the maximum amount specified in the contract or to pay nothing at all, disrupting negotiations.
The insurance company will try to derail negotiations in any way they can so that they can later argue that you will be denied coverage because your insurance does not cover the ransom amount.
For example your company is insured for 10 million dollars, while negotiating with your insurance agent about the ransom he will offer us the lowest possible amount, for example 100 thousand dollars,
we will refuse the paltry amount and ask for example the amount of 15 million dollars, the insurance agent will never offer us the top threshold of your insurance of 10 million dollars.
He will do anything to derail negotiations and refuse to pay us out completely and leave you alone with your problem. If you told us anonymously that your company was insured for $10 million and other
important details regarding insurance coverage, we would not demand more than $10 million in correspondence with the insurance agent. That way you would have avoided a leak and decrypted your information.
But since the sneaky insurance agent purposely negotiates so as not to pay for the insurance claim, only the insurance company wins in this situation. To avoid all this and get the money on the insurance,
be sure to inform us anonymously about the availability and terms of insurance coverage, it benefits both you and us, but it does not benefit the insurance company. Poor multimillionaire insurers will not
starve and will not become poorer from the payment of the maximum amount specified in the contract, because everyone knows that the contract is more expensive than money, so let them fulfill the conditions
prescribed in your insurance contract, thanks to our interaction.
Screenshot of HARDBIT's desktop wallpaper:
Text presented on this wallpaper:
!!ALL YOUR FILES ARE STOLEN AND ENCRYPTED BY HARDBIT RANSOMWARE!!
Don't worry, we will return all the files to you, you just need to contact us and send us your ID
Note that your files are stolen before encryption and if you don't contact us, we will sell them on the deep web and dark web.
HARDBIT ransomware removal:
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
Video suggesting what steps should be taken in case of a ransomware infection:
- What is HARDBIT virus?
- STEP 1. Reporting ransomware to authorities.
- STEP 2. Isolating the infected device.
- STEP 3. Identifying the ransomware infection.
- STEP 4. Searching for ransomware decryption tools.
- STEP 5. Restoring files with data recovery tools.
- STEP 6. Creating data backups.
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):
- USA - Internet Crime Complaint Centre IC3
- United Kingdom - Action Fraud
- Spain - Policía Nacional
- France - Ministère de l'Intérieur
- Germany - Polizei
- Italy - Polizia di Stato
- The Netherlands - Politie
- Poland - Policja
- Portugal - Polícia Judiciária
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:
Click the "Change adapter settings" option in the upper-left corner of the window:
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".
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":
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).
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).
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).
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):
Example 2 (.iso [Phobos] ransomware):
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 cloud icon to open the OneDrive menu. While in this menu, you can customize your file backup settings.
Click Help & Settings and then select Settings from the drop-down menu.
Go to the Backup tab and click Manage 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.
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.
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.
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.
To access files only located on OneDrive online, go to the Help & Settings drop-down menu and select View online.
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:
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How was my computer hacked and how did hackers encrypt my files?
In many cases, victims themselves open ransomware executables since these files are typically disguised as or bundled with ordinary programs/media. Ransomware is primarily distributed through drive-by downloads, spam emails and messages, online scams, dubious download sources (e.g., freeware and free file-hosting sites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), fake updaters, and malvertising.
How to open ".hardbit" files?
Encrypted files can neither be opened nor otherwise used - unless they are decrypted.
Where should I look for free decryption tools for HARDBIT ransomware?
I can pay you a lot of money, can you decrypt files for me?
We do not provide services of this kind. It must be stressed that decryption is usually impossible without the cyber criminals' interference. Therefore, third-parties offering paid decryption are likely scams or aim to act as middlemen between victims and criminals.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove HARDBIT ransomware?
Yes, Combo Cleaner can scan devices and eliminate detected ransomware infections. Note that while using anti-virus software is the first step in ransomware recovery - security programs are incapable of decrypting files.