Phobos malicious encryption to leverage spam and RDP as its main infection vectors: best practices for ransomware prevention and removal.
What is the Phobos ransomware?
Phobos ransomware encrypts a bulk of data on your device assigning extra extension to the files affected. Obviously enough, this reads ‘phobos’, hence the name of the infection. The decryption is allegedly available upon paying the ransom claimed by the attackers in the ransom note. They do not disclose the ransom amount. However, the note says the longer you wait, the more you pay. So far, there are no verified reports that anyone has purchased the decryption.
The infection applies a sophisticated AES algorithm. The attack is strong enough to withstand any brute-force response available. Good news, in these sad circumstances, is a significant number of users seeking how to get rid of Phobos ransomware. Needless to say, the utmost challenge is to remove Phobos encryption. Meanwhile, once this task completes, the removal of Phobos Ransomware is a must. As long as the encoding Trojan remains on your computer system, Safe Mode operation is recommended to avoid further damage.
The Trojan under review stems from the family of Dharma encryption-for-ransom. Being true to the type the malware spreads using RDP vulnerabilities. That is to say, most of the victims shall be corporate users as the Remote Desktop Protocol satisfies rather business than private needs.
Using RDP vulnerabilities covers both the flaws in the technology as such and the human factor.
In the case of a human factor, a sysadmin fails to set up any password for remote access. Anyone is free to enter the system simply connecting by IP via port 3389. Another way to enter exposed computer is similar. This exploits the weak password/username combinations leveraging the options of brute-forcing.
In the case of flaws in technology, the attack is still rather due to the human factor. It exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in RDP. If you patch them in a good time, there is hardly any chance for an attacker.
Apart from the RDP vector, the crooks have lately opted for plain spam. The message spotted by IT researchers scared the recipients to open the email attachment. Too many people did as requested as they learnt from the spam the amount withdrawn from their credit card totaled to USD 415.
Once the ransomware installation completes, it immediately proceeds with scanning your computer memory. The scanning discards several rare types of files so that typically the encryption processes all the data available. Following the encryption, the infection generates its ransom note. It is available in the folders the users visit frequently and may be set as a desktop background. The message offers free decryption for up to five files of total size not exceeding 10 Mb.
Contacting the crooks for any reason is not a recommended option, even as a last resort. To remove Phobos ransomware encryption with free and legitimate tools and solutions, consult the workarounds available below.
Phobos ransomware automatic removal
Extermination of this ransomware can be efficiently accomplished with reliable security software. Sticking to the automatic cleanup technique ensures that all components of the infection get thoroughly wiped from your system.
1. Download recommended security utility and get your PC checked for malicious objects by selecting the Start Computer Scan option
2. The scan will come up with a list of detected items. Click Fix Threats to get the virus and related infections removed from your system. Completing this phase of the cleanup process is most likely to lead to complete eradication of the plague proper. Now you are facing a bigger challenge – try and get your data back.
Methods to restore files encrypted by Phobos ransomware
Workaround 1: Use file recovery software
It’s important to know that the Phobos ransomware creates copies of your files and encrypts them. In the meanwhile, the original files get deleted. There are applications out there that can restore the removed data. You can utilize tools like Data Recovery Pro for this purpose. The newest version of the ransomware under consideration tends to apply secure deletion with several overwrites, but in any case this method is worth a try.
Workaround 2: Make use of backups
First and foremost, this is a great way of recovering your files. It’s only applicable, though, if you have been backing up the information stored on your machine. If so, do not fail to benefit from your forethought.
Workaround 3: Use Shadow Volume Copies
In case you didn’t know, the operating system creates so-called Shadow Volume Copies of every file as long as System Restore is activated on the computer. As restore points are created at specified intervals, snapshots of files as they appear at that moment are generated as well. Be advised this method does not ensure the recovery of the latest versions of your files. It’s certainly worth a shot though. This workflow is doable in two ways: manually and through the use of an automatic solution. Let’s first take a look at the manual process.
- Use the Previous Versions feature
The Windows OS provides a built-in option of recovering previous versions of files. It can also be applied to folders. Just right-click on a file or folder, select Properties and hit the tab named Previous Versions. Within the versions area, you will see the list of backed up copies of the file / folder, with the respective time and date indication. Select the latest entry and click Copy if you wish to restore the object to a new location that you can specify. If you click the Restore button, the item will be restored to its original location.
- Apply Shadow Explorer tool
This workflow allows restoring previous versions of files and folders in an automatic mode rather than by hand. To do this, download and install the Shadow Explorer application. After you run it, select the drive name and the date that the file versions were created. Right-click on the folder or file of interest and select the Export option. Then simply specify the location to which the data should be restored.
Verify whether Phobos ransomware has been completely removed
Again, malware removal alone does not lead to the decryption of your personal files. The data restore methods highlighted above may or may not do the trick, but the ransomware itself does not belong inside your computer. Incidentally, it often comes with other malware, which is why it definitely makes sense to repeatedly scan the system with automatic security software in order to make sure no harmful remnants of this virus and associated threats are left inside Windows Registry and other locations.
Can you remove ransomware?
Although ransomware instills fear in computer users due to its sophistication and severity highlighted in numerous news reports, it is mostly easy to get rid of. In fact, any popular antivirus suite should be able to detect and remove the deleterious program.
Believe it or not, some of these pests are configured to eliminate themselves from a contaminated machine as soon as the data encryption process is completed. It’s because the attackers aren’t actually interested in keeping their harmful software inside a system after the main damage has been impaired. This is most likely an attempt to prevent researchers from reverse-engineering or otherwise analyzing the code, which could give the white hats some useful clues regarding the crypto cracking techniques.
If your files are being held hostage already and the ransomware is still there, the only benefit of removing it is to thwart re-infection in the future. These electronic predators throw down a much more serious challenge than removal – it boils down to restoring the skewed data.
How is Phobos ransomware spread?
Phobos ransomware is doing the rounds by means of compromised remote desktop services. This particular attack vector is dominating the repertoire of cyber-extortionists who aim at large businesses in 2019.
There are two main scenarios of the breach. One of them involves a phishing email that manipulates a recipient into disclosing their remote desktop access information. The other takes advantage of RDP server hacks that took place in the past – in this case, the would-be victim is typically unaware that their credentials have been leaked and could be mishandled by criminals.
Either way, Phobos operators are able to control the computer remotely and download the malicious binary along with other elements of the ransomware from their C&C server. If necessary, the perpetrators can elevate their privileges in the system to cause more harm.
Is ransomware still a threat?
Yes, it definitely is. Whereas the total number of these attacks has decreased significantly over the past two years, they underwent groundbreaking transformations in terms of the tactics. The cybercriminals prefer quality over quantity these days, so they predominantly target businesses, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, and local governments. The growing average ransom amount paid by these victims continues to fuel the ransomware industry and incentivizes the malefactors to extend their reach. As a result, the epidemic seems to be gradually getting back on track, and the threat shouldn’t be underestimated.