Although restoring files encrypted by the ZZZZZ ransomware is very problematic due to a complex crypto locking mechanism, some techniques may be of help.
What is the .zzzzz file virus?
Zzzzz file virus is the newest version of the Locky ransomware that encrypts its victims’ data and appends the .zzzzz extension to the scrambled filenames. The users infected with this edition of the Locky plague are in trouble for several reasons. First of all, this digital plague utilizes an alloy of strong cryptographic algorithms, AES-128 and RSA-2048, to render one’s important data inaccessible. The security community has had some success with decrypting quite a few strains of ransomware over the past few months, but the one in question still goes uncrackable. Secondly, the restoration method suggested by the threat actors presupposes a payment, with the ransom amounting to 0.5 Bitcoins most of the time. Few people can afford to waste several hundred bucks, even when it comes to redeeming their invaluable photos, documents, etc. Aside from file scrambling on a deep data structure level, the attack also results in filename modifications. The ransom Trojan appends files with the .zzzzz extension and substitutes their names with gibberish 32-character strings.
The ZZZZZ infection compromises PCs through a fraudulent scheme backed by a spam campaign. Its payload is sent out to numerous users under the guise of receipts, invoices, resumes, job offers, order details, rogue notifications from one’s Internet Service Provider and the like. The idea is to dupe a recipient into opening the attachment, which mostly comes in the form of a ZIP file with JS, HTA or VBS object inside. The moment the unwary user opens this file, the corrupt script will download an encoded DLL item, then decode and save it to the computer’s Temp path. This file is exported by a trusted Windows application so that the likelihood of antivirus detection is reduced to a minimum.
This version of Locky can perform the data encryption process offline. In other words, it proliferates with a set of the necessary encryption keys already built in, so there is no need to query the Command and Control server for this information. This characteristic poses yet another obfuscation layer that prevents firewalls and security suites from detecting the ransomware based on suspicious traffic markers. In the course of the data scrambling phase of the breach, the malady will also replace filenames with entries like this: E4CDB3A1-4G95-A747-000D-E9DCF2CE2619.zzzzz. The hexadecimal characters prepending the ransomware extension are unique for every victim.
Ultimately, the -INSTRUCTION.html and -INSTRUCTION.bmp ransom notes will be created on the desktop and inside all folders with locked files. These ‘help’ files instruct the user to visit a Tor (The Onion Router) page called the Locky Decryptor, which provides a detailed walkthrough for decrypting the data. Specifically, the infected person has to send 0.5 BTC to a Bitcoin address indicated there. Paying this ransom, however, means you leave it all to chance, because nobody can guarantee a successful outcome. Before accepting the adversary’s terms, be sure to try a few other options that involve some forensics and the conventional practices of information recovery.
.zzzzz extension 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 ransomware 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 .zzzzz extension
Workaround 1: Use file recovery software
It’s important to know that the .zzzzz extension 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 Stellar Data Recovery for this purpose. The newest version of the extension 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 .zzzzz extension has been completely removed
Again, file 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 extension, 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 extension and associated threats are left inside Windows Registry and other locations.