MPAG ransomware locks files on the computer, demands a ransom
- MPAG ransomware locks files on the computer, demands a ransom
- Ransomware distribution techniques to be aware of
- More details concerning the infection
- Remove MPAG Ransomware Virus and Restore Your Files
- Decrypt MPAG files
- Frequently Asked Questions
MPAG ransomware is a new malicious ransomware virus created by cybercriminals as a tool to be used in defrauding unsuspecting computer users. This new file-encrypting virus strain is dangerous and belongs to the infamous STOP/DJVU ransomware family. It has the capacity to encrypt files contained in any computer it infects and also appends .mpag extension to the file names respectively. To explain it better, a file that was formerly known as 1.jpg would automatically become 1.jpg.mpag and same will be repeated on all others. While the attack is in progress, some ransom notes referred as _readme.txt will be released in all the folders. These ransom notes contain information sent by the cybercriminals behind the attack, notifying the victim about the situation. They urge the user to get in touch with them and pay the ransom to receive MPAG file decryption tool.
The cybercriminals will go further to claim that the victim’s important files contained in the infected computer, including vital documents, pictures and various data has been comprehensively (encrypted i.e. made unreadable) with the use of very strong and unique encryption key that can’t be bypassed. Therefore, the victim has no other option than to comply with their demands. To facilitate further discussions, they would also drop two email addresses namely: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furthermore, they would list their decryption service prices and the terms of payment associated with them. For instance, they will state that it’s very important for the victim to respond within 72 hours/3 days of being notified, and if being able to do so would enable them to leverage their 50% discount option. In other words, instead of paying $980 as ransom fee, they would now be required to pay only $490. However, once the 3 days of “grace” elapses, they would be mandated to pay the full ransom fee.
However, should the victim decide to respond to them, more conditions would be reeled their way; they will be informed to buy cryptocurrency that is worth the value of the ransom fee and transfer it to a wallet address that would be provided by them. The plausible reason why they make use of this medium is due to the anonymity it offers its users. They understand that law enforcement agencies could be in their trail so they do everything possible to evade arrest. To assure the victim of their expertise in decrypting files, they may suggest that samples from the encrypted files should be sent to them for test decryption but will also emphasize that it mustn’t contain information they could perceive as important to the victim.
Whatever they say or the threats, our team of cybersecurity experts strongly advises victims to always observe the FBI’s recommendation with respect to ransom payment, and it unambiguously stated that RANSOM MUST NOT BE PAID. The reason is that paying the ransom does not guarantee you would recover your important files. On the contrary, there is a high chance you would end up losing both your files and money.
Paying the ransom only favors the cybercriminals and encourages them to not just continue in their criminal activities but to also increase their capacity, thus enabling them to inflict more damages on increased number of victims. Cybercriminals extort millions of dollars from their victims globally every year but this unacceptable situation could be stopped or at least minimized to the barest minimum if every victim refuses to pay the ransom.
Also, other Trojans that steal information like VIDAR and AZORULT, among others, are usually dropped by this virus on the already compromised computer. These Trojans are then used in stealing vital information such as banking details, software account login credentials, browser-saved passwords, cryptocurrency wallets, cookies, browsing history, etc. Such relevant information in the hands of cybercriminals can only result in more fraudulent acts like theft and blackmails.
For those whose computer systems have been infected with this new variant of STOP/DJVU malware, you’re advised to remove MPAG ransomware virus as quickly as possible. The recommended safe way to do this is by activating and running genuine antivirus or malware removal software while the compromised computer is set up in Safe Mode with Networking option. You should consider downloading RESTORO which you can use in repairing Windows OS files damaged by the virus.
|Name||MPAG Ransomware Virus|
|Type||Ransomware; Crypto-malware; Virtual Extortion Virus|
|Encryption type||RSA 2048 + Salsa20|
|Previous versions||OOPU, MMPU, MMVB, MMDT, EEWT, EEMV, (find full list here)|
|Cybercriminal email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Additional malware dropped||Azorult or Vidar Trojan|
|Damage||The ransomware is designed to encrypt all files and mark their original filenames with an additional .mpag extension. The malware drops _readme.txt ransom note in every computer folder. This threat usually installs VIDAR Stealer alongside it, deletes Volume Shadow Copies and modifies Windows HOSTS file to restrict computer user’s access to cybersecurity-related websites online.|
|Ransom demand||$490-$980 in Bitcoin|
|Distribution||Victims often download this ransomware along illegal torrent downloads, cracked software, activators, key generators or tools like KMSPico.|
|Known software cracks to contain this malware||Corel Draw, Tenorshare 4ukey, Adobe Photoshop, Cubase, Adobe Illustrator, Internet Download Manager, Tally, League of Legends.|
|Detection names||Ransom:Win32/StopCrypt.PAL!MTB (Microsoft), Trojan.Crypt (A) (Emsisoft), HEUR:Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Stop.gen (Kaspersky), Trojan.GenericKD.47850419 (BitDefender), Trojan.MalPack.GS (Malwarebytes), ML.Attribute.HighConfidence (Symantec) see all detection name variations on VirusTotal|
|Removal||Remove ransomware and related malware from your PC using professional software of your choice. We highly recommend downloading RESTORO to repair virus damage on Windows OS files.|
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Ransomware distribution techniques to be aware of
One of the most common ways through which computer users inadvertently infect their systems with any of the STOP/DJVU ransomware variants including MPAG virus is when they download software from malicious online torrents. Cybercriminals usually attach such threats to pirated software copies like “cracks” and key generators which they use in targeting their victims. Therefore, the use of such illegal contents is strongly discouraged. Based on reports made by victims over the years, it became obvious that certain types of pirated software copies are often used by virtual criminals to trigger ransomware attack. They would upload them to malicious online torrents and patiently wait for unsuspecting users to download them to their computers. Some of them are listed below:
- Adobe Photoshop;
- Tenorshare 4ukey;
- Fifa 20;
- Opera browser;
- Corel Draw;
- VMware Workstation;
- Adobe Illustrator;
- League of Legends;
- Internet Download Manager;
- KMSPico (illegal Windows activation tool).
For those that habitually engage in such dangerous activities, now is the time to stop it to avoid becoming a victim. It may appear like a cheap alternative to get game versions or other types of software for free but you should note that it is not worth the risk because you may likely end up infecting your system with malware. Whatever token you’re asked to pay by the content producers can’t be compared to the humongous ransom fees demanded by cybercriminals and neither would you be at risk of losing sensitive/vital data. Also, such act is regarded as illegal and is punishable by law. Instead, it is safer and ethical to obtain such needs through the right sources as endorsed by the original content developers. By so doing, you will be encouraging them and also helping the industry to grow.
The major challenge is how to identify emails sent by cybercriminals considering how they often impersonate others including popular brands like Amazon, eBay, DHL, FedEx, UPS etc. They also attach files with compelling tags like Tracking Details, Invoice or Order Summary among others. On top of that, the attackers may even make use of email spoofing methods in obfuscating the actual address of the senders. These are all gimmicks used by cybercriminals in a desperate attempt to catch their victims unawares. Therefore, computer users should remain vigilant at all times and scrutinize emails before opening them. If such email is odd and doesn’t directly relate to you or your activities then you may as well avoid opening it or any attachment that accompanies it.
On a final note, those that unfortunately became victims of STOP/DJVU ransomware due to ignorance or failure to adhere to the recommendations outlined in this article should not jeopardize their situation further by seeking for solution from dubious websites. At the moment, the only decryption service providers with proven effectiveness are those provided by DiskTuna and Emsisoft. Here is an article on how you can download and use them.
More details concerning the infection
If you’re among those that may want to know the extent to which their computer was compromised during MPAG ransomware attack, this section will come in handy as it explains the technical aspects of it. The first thing the malware does is to launch build.exe or build2.exe executables as well as winupdate.exe. It will then connect to https[:]//api.2ip.ua/geo.json before saving it to geo.json file. This file contains details concerning the victim’s PC, such as its geolocation, time zone, city, zip code, longitude and latitude, and more. Examples of geo.json file are shown below.
It will also create another file that will contain software list, hardware details and would be processed into information.txt.
The next thing the virus will do is to scan the country code it extracted earlier against a list of encryption-exempted countries, namely; The Russian Federation, Ukraine, Syria, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazachstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. If it realizes that the computer is located in any of the aforementioned countries, it will immediately abort its mission. However, if otherwise, it will retrieve online encryption key from their server and would add it to the victim’s ID before saving them in bowsakkdestx.txt file and also the ID individually to PersonalID.txt file. Displayed below is an example of such files.
In situations where the virus couldn’t retrieve an online encryption key from their server, it will immediately opt for a hardcoded offline key as an alternative. You can decipher if an offline key was used if it contains t1 characters appended to the personal ID. The implication is that you will have a higher chance of decrypting .mpag files going forward. More details about this is provided below this article.
The ransomware will at this point commence full data encryption procedure by scanning every folder and also encrypting each file with Salsa20 before using RSA-2048 code to lock the encryption key. The ransomware also appends .mpag extension to each affected file to make it distinguishable.
Below is a screenshot of the _readme.txt ransom note that is usually left in all the folders.
In completing the entire process, the virus will blacklist certain domains in the Windows HOSTS file in order to prevent the victim from accessing them. Any attempt by the victim to browse them would produce the DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN error message.
Remove MPAG Ransomware Virus and Restore Your Files
Victims of MPAG ransomware virus should quickly remove it by setting up their computer in Safe Mode with Networking before scanning the system with trustworthy malware removal software. We recommend downloading RESTORO to help restore damaged Windows OS files.
Once MPAG ransomware virus removal is in the past, we also recommend the following steps:
- Report the incident to the relevant law enforcement agency.
- Use any available backup device to restore lost files.
- Change all passwords that were used on the compromised computer.
Above all, remember to take proactive actions, as highlighted in this article, at all times.
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MPAG Ransomware Virus Removal Guidelines
Method 1. Enter Safe Mode with Networking
Step 1. Start Windows in Safe Mode with Networking
Before you try to remove MPAG Ransomware Virus virus, you must start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking. Below, we provide the easiest ways to boot PC in the said mode, but you can find additional ones in this in-depth tutorial on our website – How to Start Windows in Safe Mode. Also, if you prefer a video version of the tutorial, check our guide How to Start Windows in Safe Mode on Youtube.
Instructions for Windows XP/Vista/7 users
- First of all, turn off your PC. Then press the Power button to start it again and instantly start pressing F8 button on your keyboard repeatedly in 1-second intervals. This launches the Advanced Boot Options menu.
- Use arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate down to Safe Mode with Networking option and press Enter.
Instructions for Windows 8/8.1/10/11 users
- Open Windows Start menu, then press down the Power button. On your keyboard, press down and hold the Shift key, and then select Restart option.
- This will take you to Windows Troubleshoot screen. Choose Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Restart. Tip: If you can't find Startup Settings, click See more recovery options.
- In Startup Settings, press the right key between F1-F9 to enter Safe Mode with Networking. In this case, it is the F5 key.
Step 2. Remove files associated with the virus
Now, you can search for and remove MPAG Ransomware Virus files. It is very hard to identify files and registry keys that belong to the ransomware virus, Besides, malware creators tend to rename and change them repeatedly. Therefore, the easiest way to uninstall such type of a computer virus is to use a reliable security program such as INTEGO Antivirus, which also includes data recovery software. For virus damage repair, consider using RESTORO.
Compatibility: Microsoft Windows
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Method 2. Use System Restore
In order to use System Restore, you must have a system restore point, created either manually or automatically.
Step 1. Boot Windows in Safe Mode with Command Prompt
Instructions for Windows XP/Vista/7 users
- Shut down your PC. Start it again by pressing the Power button and instantly start pressing F8 button on your keyboard repeatedly in 1-second intervals. You will see Advanced Boot Options menu.
- Using arrow keys on the keyboard, navigate down to Safe Mode with Command Prompt option and press Enter.
Instructions for Windows 8/8.1/10/11 users
- Launch Windows Start menu, then click the Power button. On your keyboard, press down and hold the Shift key, and then choose Restart option with the mouse cursor.
- In Startup Settings, press the right key between F1-F9 to enter Safe Mode with Command Prompt. In this case, press F6 key.
Step 2. Start System Restore process
- Wait until system loads and command prompt shows up.
- Type cd restore and press Enter, then type rstrui.exe and press Enter. Or you can just type %systemroot%system32restorerstrui.exe in command prompt and hit Enter.
- This launches System Restore window. Click Next and then choose a System Restore point created in the past. Choose one that was created before ransomware infection.
- Click Yes to begin the system restoration process.
After restoring the system, we recommend scanning the system with antivirus or anti-malware software. In most cases, there won't be any malware remains, but it never hurts to double-check. In addition, we highly recommend checking ransomware prevention guidelines provided by our experts in order to protect your PC against similar viruses in the future.
Alternative software recommendations
Removing spyware and malware is one step towards cybersecurity. To protect yourself against ever-evolving threats, we strongly recommend purchasing a Premium version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which provides security based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Includes ransomware protection. See pricing options and protect yourself now.
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Decrypt MPAG files
Fix and open large MPAG files easily:
It is reported that STOP/DJVU ransomware versions encrypt only the beginning 150 KB of each file to ensure that the virus manages to affect all files on the system. In some cases, the malicious program might skip some files at all. That said, we recommend testing this method on several big (>1GB) files first.
- Create a copy of encrypted file to a separate folder using Copy > Paste commands.
- Now, right-click the created copy and choose Rename. Select the MPAG extension and delete it. Press Enter to save changes.
- In the prompt asking whether you want to make the changes as file might become unusable, click OK.
- Try opening the file.
STOP/DJVU decryption tool usage guide
STOP/DJVU ransomware versions are grouped into old and new variants. MPAG Ransomware Virus is considered the new STOP/DJVU variant, just like OOPU, MMPU, MMVB, MMDT, EEWT, EEMV, (find full list here). This means full data decryption is now possible only if you have been affected by offline encryption key. To decrypt your files, you will have to download Emsisoft Decryptor for STOP DJVU, a tool created and maintained by a genius security researcher Michael Gillespie.
Note! Please do not spam the security researcher with questions whether he can recover your files encrypted with online key - it is not possible.
In order to test the tool and see if it can decrypt MPAG files, follow the given tutorial.
- Download the decryption tool from Emsisoft.
- Click the little arrow next to your download and choose Show in Folder.
- Now, right-click the file and choose Run as Administrator. If asked, enter administrator's password.
- In UAC window, click Yes.
- Click Yes to agree to software terms in both windows.
- The tool will automatically include C:// disk as a location to decrypt. The file recovery tool will prepopulate the locations to scan, including connected data storage drives or network drives. Click Add folder if you wish to add additional locations.
In Options tab, you can choose to keep encrypted file copies. We recommend leaving this option selected, especially if you do not know if the decryption tool will work.
- Click Decrypt to start restoring MPAG files. You will see the progress in the Results tab. Here, you can see messages from the tool, such as whether the decryption procedure is successful, or you need to wait for an update.
You might also be informed that online key was used to encrypt your files. In such case, the decryption tool won't work for you, and the only way to recover your files is to use a data backup.
Meanings of decryptor's messages
The MPAG decryption tool might display several different messages after failed attempt to restore your files. You might receive one of the following messages:
Error: Unable to decrypt file with ID: [example ID]
This message typically means that there is no corresponding decryption key in the decryptor's database.
No key for New Variant online ID: [example ID]
Notice: this ID appears to be an online ID, decryption is impossible
This message informs that your files were encrypted with online key, meaning no one else has the same encryption/decryption key pair, therefore data recovery without paying the criminals is impossible.
Result: No key for new variant offline ID: [example ID]
This ID appears to be an offline ID. Decryption may be possible in the future.
If you were informed that an offline key was used, but files could not be restored, it means that the offline decryption key isn't available yet. However, receiving this message is extremely good news, meaning that it might be possible to restore your MPAG extension files in the future. It can take a few months until the decryption key gets found and uploaded to the decryptor. We recommend you to follow updates regarding the decryptable DJVU versions here. We strongly recommend backing up your encrypted data and waiting.
Report Internet crime to legal departments
Victims of MPAG Ransomware Virus should report the Internet crime incident to the official government fraud and scam website according to their country:
- In the United States, go to the On Guard Online website.
- In Australia, go to the SCAMwatch website.
- In Germany, go to the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik website.
- In Ireland, go to the An Garda Síochána website.
- In New Zealand, go to the Consumer Affairs Scams website.
- In the United Kingdom, go to the Action Fraud website.
- In Canada, go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
- In India, go to Indian National Cybercrime Reporting Portal.
- In France, go to the Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information.
If you can't find an authority corresponding to your location on this list, we recommend using any search engine to look up "[your country name] report cyber crime". This should lead you to the right authority website. We also recommend staying away from third-party crime report services that are often paid. It costs nothing to report Internet crime to official authorities.
Another recommendation is to contact your country's or region’s federal police or communications authority.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can only open MPAG files if you have the decryption key, or if you were affected by offline encryption type.
To figure out whether you were affected by offline encryption, please go to C:/SystemID/PersonalID.txt and see if the string inside of it ends in t1. You can also try using Emsisoft Decryptor for STOP/DJVU.
Please follow the guidances provided by the official MPAG decryption tools and believe what they say. If they say it is impossible to decrypt, it really is so. There is no magic tool or human capable of decrypting your files hiding somewhere. Encryption is a technique created to be nearly impossible to decrypt without a special private key (held by the criminals).
We advise scanning with anti-virus, anti-malware, malware removal tools or software like RESTORO to eliminate virus damage on the system. If you do not trust using a single tool, try running one after another. However, we do not recommend keeping several security programs on a computer at once as they can interfere with each other's work.
Beware of fake MPAG decryption tools circulating around the web. Cyber criminals are uploading them to various shady websites, also might be promoting them via suspicious Youtube videos. These programs can infect your computer even more heavily (Trojans, miners, etc.). We suggest being extremely cautious around the web. If there will be an official STOP/DJVU decryption tool available, it will be widely discussed in public media.
Norbert Webb is the head of Geek’s Advice team. He is the chief editor of the website who controls the quality of content published. The man also loves reading cybersecurity news, testing new software and sharing his insights on them. Norbert says that following his passion for information technology was one of the best decisions he has ever made. “I don’t feel like working while I’m doing something I love.” However, the geek has other interests, such as snowboarding and traveling.