What kind of malware is Intel?
While investigating new file submissions to the VirusTotal website, our researchers discovered the Intel ransomware. This malicious program is part of the Dharma ransomware family. Intel malware encrypts data and demands payment for its decryption.
On our test machine, the files encrypted by Intel were also renamed. Original filenames were appended with a unique ID assigned to the victim, ".[intellent@ai_download_file]", and the ".intel" extension. For example, a file initially named "1.jpg" appeared as "1.jpg.id-9ECFA84E.[intellent@ai_download_file].intel".
After the encryption process was concluded, ransom notes were created in a pop-up window and text files titled "README!.txt"; the latter were dropped into each encrypted folder and on the desktop. Based on the message in the pop-up, it is evident that this ransomware targets companies and utilizes double extortion tactics.
Screenshot of files encrypted by Intel ransomware:
Ransom note overview
The message in the text file merely informs the victim that their data has been encrypted and stolen. It urges to email the attackers.
The pop-up provides more information about the ransomware infection. This ransom note reiterates the encryption and data theft claims. It also warns that if the victim does not contact the cyber criminals within 24 hours or refuses to pay the ransom – the stolen content will be leaked to the dark web and/or sold to their company's competitors.
As proof that recovery is possible, the message offers a free decryption test to be performed on a single file. The victim is warned against using third-party decryption tools since they may render the affected data undecryptable. They are also informed that seeking aid from recovery companies will only result in an increased financial loss, as the middlemen's fee will be added to the ransom.
Intel ransomware overview
Intel ransomware encrypts both local and network-shared files. Critical system files are unaffected; hence, the infection does not render the system nonoperational.
The malware attempts to avoid double encryption by leaving files locked by other ransomware untouched. This measure is not flawless, as the encryption exclusion is based on a list that does not include all known ransomware.
Intel malware also closes processes in which files could be open (e.g., text file readers, database programs, etc.); this prevents conflict for files that could be considered "in use" and thus get exempted from encryption.
Programs belonging to the Dharma family disable the firewall to aid with infiltration and avoid detection. Persistence-ensuring techniques used by these programs include copying the malware to the %LOCALAPPDATA% path and registering it with specific Run keys, as well as automatically starting the ransomware after every system reboot.
It is pertinent to mention that Dharma attacks can be targeted, as the programs can obtain geolocation data and make exceptions. Therefore, the infections can have political/geopolitical motivations or steer clear of victims unlikely to meet the ransom demands (e.g., based in regions with a weak economy).
To prevent recovery, Intel ransomware may delete the Volume Shadow Copies. Based on our extensive experience researching ransomware infections, we can conclude that decryption is usually impossible without the attackers' interference.
Furthermore, victims often do not receive the promised decryption keys/software – despite meeting the ransom demands. Therefore, we strongly advise against it since file recovery is not guaranteed, and paying also supports this criminal activity.
While removing ransomware will prevent it from encrypting more data – removal will not restore already compromised files. The sole solution is to recover them from a backup (if one was created prior 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.
We have analyzed thousands of ransomware-type programs; DoctorHelp, BlackLegion, LEAKDB, and Jazi are merely a few examples. Malware within this classification works practically the same throughout – it encrypts files and demands ransoms for their decryption.
However, these programs have several significant differences in between. Ransomware can use different cryptographic algorithms (symmetric or asymmetric) to encrypt data. Additionally, ransoms can vary from three to eight digits (in USD) depending on the intended victim, i.e., home user vs. large entity.
How did ransomware infect my computer?
In most Dharma ransomware infections, devices are infiltrated through vulnerable RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) services. This is often facilitated by brute-force and dictionary attacks; networks with subpar account credential management are particularly susceptible to these attacks.
It is noteworthy that Intel ransomware could be proliferated using other methods as well. In general, malware of all types is spread using phishing and social engineering tactics.
The most commonly used distribution techniques include: drive-by (stealthy/deceptive) downloads, malicious attachments/links in spam mail (e.g., emails, DMs/PMs, SMSes, etc.), untrustworthy download channels (e.g., freeware and third-party websites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), online scams, malvertising, illegal software activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.
Furthermore, some malicious programs can self-proliferate via local networks and removable storage devices (e.g., USB flash drives, external hard drives, etc.).
|Ransomware, Crypto Virus, Files locker
|Encrypted Files Extension
|Ransom Demanding Message
|Text presented in the pop-up window and README!.txt
|Free Decryptor Available?
|Cyber Criminal Contact
|Avast (Win32:RansomX-gen [Ransom]), Combo Cleaner (Trojan.Ransom.Crysis.E), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Filecoder.Crysis.P), Kaspersky (Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crusis.to), Microsoft (Ransom:Win32/Wadhrama!pz), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
|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.
|Infected email attachments (macros), torrent websites, malicious ads.
|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?
Caution is key to computer safety; this includes implementing strong credential management practices. Another recommendation is to treat incoming emails and other messages with care. Attachments or links found in dubious mail must not be opened, as they can be infectious.
We also recommend downloading only from official and verified sources. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated using legitimate functions/tools, as those acquired from third-parties may contain malware.
We advise being vigilant while browsing since fraudulent and dangerous online content typically appears genuine and innocuous.
It is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus installed and kept updated. Security software must be used to perform regular system scans and to remove threats/issues. If your computer is already infected with Intel, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate this ransomware.
Screenshot of Intel ransomware's pop-up window:
Text presented in this message:
intellent.ai We downloaded to our servers and encrypted all your databases and personal information!
If you do not write to us within 24 hours, we will start publishing and selling your data on the darknet on hacker sites and offer the information to your competitors
email us: firstname.lastname@example.org YOUR ID -
If you haven't heard back within 24 hours, write to this email:email@example.com
Keep in mind that once your data appears on our leak site,it could be bought by your competitors at any second, so don't hesitate for a long time.The sooner you pay the ransom, the sooner your company will be safe..
we've looked at all of your reports and your company's revenue.
Guarantee:If we don't provide you with a decryptor or delete your data after you pay,no one will pay us in the future. We value our reputation.
Guarantee key:To prove that the decryption key exists, we can test the file (not the database and backup) for free.
Do not try to decrypt your data using third party software, it may cause permanent data loss.
Don't go to recovery companies - they are essentially just middlemen.Decryption of your files with the help of third parties may cause increased price (they add their fee to our) we're the only ones who have the decryption keys.
Screenshot of Intel ransomware's text file ("README!.txt"):
Text presented in this file:
Your data has been stolen and encrypted!
Video showing how to remove Intel ransomware using Combo Cleaner:
Intel 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 Intel 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?
Programs belonging to the Dharma ransomware family commonly infiltrate devices via unsecured RDP services; these infections typically include brute-force and dictionary attacks. Ransomware executables are usually disguised as or bundled with ordinary content – hence, victims themselves often open these files.
In general, ransomware is predominantly proliferated via drive-by downloads, spam emails/messages, online scams, malvertising, dubious download channels (e.g., freeware and free file-hosting sites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.
How to open ".intel" files?
Encrypted files cannot be opened/used unless they are decrypted.
Where should I look for free decryption tools for Intel ransomware?
I can pay you a lot of money, can you decrypt files for me?
We do not provide such services. It must be mentioned that aside from cases involving seriously flawed ransomware, decryption is usually impossible without the cyber criminals' interference. Therefore, third-parties offering paid decryption are often scams or middleman services between victims and criminals.
Will Combo Cleaner help me remove Intel ransomware?
Yes, Combo Cleaner will scan your device and eliminate active ransomware infections. Keep in mind that while using anti-virus software is the first step in ransomware recovery – security programs are incapable of decrypting data.