USAM ransomware holds personal files hostage for a ransom
- USAM ransomware holds personal files hostage for a ransom
- Examining distribution and decryption methodology
- USAM ransomware virus removal explained
- Decrypt USAM files
- Frequently Asked Questions
USAM ransomware virus is a highly dangerous crypto-malware that comes as the 233rd variant of the STOP/DJVU family. It performs a robust encryption process that leaves personal files on victim’s computer unusable and marked with .Usam extension. Victims whose computers have been infected receive _readme.txt file as a ransom note and are asked to contact the criminals for payment details via email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail addresses.
According to the security professionals, ransomware-type infections continue to spread on unverified peer-to-peer (P2P) portals or deceptive pop-up advertisements. Once infiltrated, this virus tries to hide its presence from the computer user by imitating a Windows Update screen. The disguise helps to successfully encrypt files on the targeted computer without interruption.
Note that USAM ransomware also holds malicious codes that are executed right away — victims are automatically blocked from accessing all types of security tools, including antivirus software and security websites online. This way the cyber threat ensures that the victim would not be able to stop the encryption process once started.
File-encrypting viruses are capable of encoding all types of information on the system. It includes photographs, videos, audio memories, various types of documents, and other information. After successful encryption, files contain .Usam extension and are no longer accessible like before. For example, image.jpg is changed to image.jpg.usam and the user can no longer open the photograph.
While regular computer users might be unaware of what happened, cybercriminals drop _readme.txt file that serves as a ransom note. They explain that the information is encrypted and the only way to reaccess it is to get a USAM decryption key. This is a unique tool that cannot be duplicated — attackers ask to pay a considerable amount of money in Bitcoins for it.
Reasons not to trust the attackers
Users are offered a 50% off the full price within the first 72 hours of infection and are asked to transfer $490 to a specific Bitcoin account. After the given period of time, cybercriminals double the price, and victims must purchase the decryption tool for $980 via cryptocurrency portals. However, attackers not always keep their promises. In fact, almost never.
Victims whose computers have been infected with previous versions of STOP/DJVU ransomware (TABE, NYPD, KKLL, ZWER, NLAH) warn other people not to trust cybercriminals. Many users suffered from financial losses since they agreed to pay but never received the decryption key or they were asked to pay even more money.
An example of the USAM virus ransom note in a text format:
Don’t worry, you can return all your files!
All your files like photos, databases, documents and other important are encrypted with strongest encryption and unique key.
The only method of recovering files is to purchase decrypt tool and unique key for you.
This software will decrypt all your encrypted files.
What guarantees you have?
You can send one of your encrypted file from your PC and we decrypt it for free.
But we can decrypt only 1 file for free. File must not contain valuable information.
You can get and look video overview decrypt tool:
Price of private key and decrypt software is $980.
Discount 50% available if you contact us first 72 hours, that’s price for you is $490.
Please note that you’ll never restore your data without payment.
Check your e-mail “Spam” or “Junk” folder if you don’t get answer more than 6 hours.
To get this software you need write on our e-mail:
Your personal ID:
Our Geek’s Advice security team also suggests you to never follow the demands of the attackers. Otherwise, you risk being tricked to spend considerable amounts of money on software you might never receive. Note that you should remove USAM ransomware instead. For that, you must use a professional antivirus. Speaking of virus damage repair, use program like RESTORO.
USAM removal is a complicated process and should never be performed on your own. Either get help from an IT expert or run a full system scan with a malware removal application and get rid of the file-encrypting virus as quickly as possible. Later, you can try to restore your files by following steps on the STOP/DJVU decryption guide.
Ransomware acts as a blocker for security websites
Recent studies show that file encryption is not the only feature of this highly advanced ransomware. In fact, hackers have developed this virus to act as a blocker for security websites. In other words, USAM ransomware is capable to prevent people from accessing the majority of security pages once their systems are infected.
The file-encrypting virus is programmed to modify the Windows hosts file on the attacked computer. Right after the infiltration it embeds a rogue code inside the hosts file with a list of pages whose connection should be blocked. Therefore, people who aim to get help with either the removal process or data decryption are unable to contact the experts online. Security sites simply do not load on the infected system.
While the installed antivirus might be capable to get rid of USAM file virus, it would not detect the modifications on the Windows hosts file. Usually, people must eliminate the malicious code inside on their own. For that, we suggest following Windows hosts file reset guide that is designed to suit all most commonly used OS, including Windows Vista/XP/7/8/10.
Summarizing the features of a virus
|Other variants||PEZI, ZIPE, TABE, ZWER, NLAH, NYPD|
|Contact email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Ransom demanded||$490 with 50% off in the first 72 hours; later, $980|
|Damage||The virus encrypts all information on the targeted computer and users can no longer access them; Additionally, it installs a password stealer known as AZORULT alongside|
|Distribution||Just like other malware, this ransomware spreads as software cracks on P2P networks or as a fake Adobe Update in a pop-up|
|Decryption process||Currently, USAM decryptor is unavailable. Yet, you can try to restore damaged files by uploading the latest backup from the Cloud|
|Removal||The only safe way to uninstall ransomware is to use robust malware removal software. For virus damage repair, scan with RESTORO|
Name: USAM ransomware virus
Description: USAM ransomware virus is a highly dangerous malware variant that is designed to prevent victim from accessing personal files on a computer and connected data drives. It encrypts them and marks them with .usam file extensions. Following a successful attack, the virus creates and drops _readme.txt note, which contains a ransom demand from the cybercriminals.
Offer price: $490-$980
Operating System: Windows
Application Category: Ransomware (Malware)
Author: STOP/DJVU developers
User Review( vote)
USAM ransomware attack demonstration is shown below. The virus modifies files, and after that, they can no longer be opened.
Examining distribution and decryption methodology
It is evident that searching for popular software cracks on illegal portals is still very popular among regular computer users. Unfortunately, cybercriminals try to take advantage of unregulated websites and upload ransomware executables named as popular applications and their cracks. Therefore, many inexperienced computer users are fooled to install the file-encrypting virus completely on their own.
Another trick that attackers employed contains creating a fake Adobe update pop-up ad. Users who browse on questionable pages can be redirected to the malicious advertisement that suggests you need to update your software by clicking the update button right on the pop-up. Unfortunately, clicking on it starts an automatic ransomware installation on the targeted computer.
Ways to avoid ransomware attacks
It is essential to stop visiting such peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and getting unverified programs. Instead, you should install software only from its official website or use an authorised distributor. This way, you will make sure that the file you are downloading is completely safe and ransomware-free.
Furthermore, if you want to avoid falling for the fraudulent Adobe update ad you should always check if the notification to upgrade your software comes from the application installed on the computer or it appears on the browser. Note that most fake pop-ups are displayed while you browse the Internet. Thus, you should never click on them.
Currently available methods for decryption
Although, those who have already fallen for ransomware distribution tricks and installed a virus can still remove it and try to restore the encrypted data. Currently, researchers divide STOP/DJVU family viruses into two categories — old and new. The old virus types already has a decryption tool while the new ones are still undecryptable.
The old virus category includes 148 variants that have been released before August 2019. They are using an offline key to perform encryption when the computer is offline or faces connectivity issues. Likewise, users can try using a robust decryptor from Emsisoft to restore their files. However, this tool requires an Internet connection. Yet, it is completely free of charge.
Furthermore, the Emsisoft team, including Michael Gillespie, has presented a new way to try to get users’ files back. Now, people who have an original version and an encrypted version of a file can upload it on the Emsisoft decryption website. The security team warns that the decryption process might take time and it also works only on ransomware versions created before August 2019.
In addition, despite which encryption type – online or offline was used, you can repair some file types using a freshly developed Media_Repair tool by DiskTuna. You can find its how-to-use guide here.
USAM ransomware virus removal explained
While you might find multiple ways to remove USAM ransomware virus online, we can assure you that the safest one is to use professional antivirus software. When it comes to post-malware removal, we highly recommend using RESTORO for the virus damage repair.
In addition to USAM removal, this software offers to fix virus damage. In other words, this antivirus can also replace damaged Windows OS files with new ones and make sure that your system is just as good as before the infection. However, this does not mean that it will decrypt the encoded information on the computer. For file recovery, you must use the latest backup.
If you are unable to download or open the antivirus you chose to use, it is because the ransomware runs malicious codes to block all security tools. You can circumvent the system by booting your computer into Safe Mode. Ways how to do that are explained below in the guide.
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Our team recommends a two-step rescue plan to remove ransomware and other remaining malware from your computer, plus repair caused virus damage to the system:
USAM 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 USAM 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, see a video tutorial on how to do it:
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 USAM 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
See Full Review
RESTORO is a unique PC Repair Tool which comes with an in-built Avira scan engine to detect and remove spyware/malware threats and uses a patented technology to repair virus damage. The software can repair damaged, missing or malfunctioning Windows OS files, corrupted DLLs, and more. The free version offers a scan that detects issues. To fix them, license key for the full software version must be purchased.
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 USAM files
Fix and open large USAM 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 USAM 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. USAM ransomware virus is considered the new STOP/DJVU variant, just like VGKF, NQHD, ZAQI, YBER, VFGJ, FHKF, MAAK (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 USAM 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 USAM 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 USAM 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 USAM 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 USAM 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 USAM 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 USAM 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 USAM 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.
Scott Bolton is a senior content strategist in our Geek’s Advice team. He is exceptionally passionate about covering the latest information technology themes and inspire other team members to follow new innovations. Despite the fact that Scott is an old-timer among the Geeks, he still enjoys writing comprehensive articles about exciting cybersecurity news or quick tutorials.