Remove ZATE Ransomware Virus (DECRYPT .zate FILES)

ZATE ransomware virus aims to attack your computer

ZATE ransomware is a computer virus originating from the STOP/DJVU ransomware group. It aims to infect unprotected Windows-running systems by deceit. In that case, it will instantly commence the attack by encrypting files stored on the system. The files could be in the form of Microsoft word documents, pictures, or videos. In cases where the ZATE ransomware virus is not detected on time and removed using genuine antivirus, the damage could be extensive and irreversible. Once it is done with the encryption process, it will attach .zate extension to each affected file as a mark of identification. To illustrate this, files that were previously saved with names like 1.png or 2.jpg as the case may be automatically transformed to 1.png.zate or 2.jpg.zate respectively.

After identifying the encrypted files with the use of extensions, the cybercriminals will begin the second phase of the attack by notifying the victim about the situation. Their message is usually sent a notification known as _readme.txt and it would be forwarded to all the affected folders. Furthermore, two emails (support@fishmail.top and a reserve e-mail address: datarestorehelp@airmail.cc) are also delivered to enable a communication channel between the cybercriminals and their victim.

The criminals expect victims to pay a ransom

Whenever they get to such extent, it means that extensive damage has been done to the files. Trying to reach an agreement with cybercriminals is never advisable considering they have done their worst already. Those that reached out to them in the past only succeeded in suffering more losses. They would mandate the victim to pay the ransom so they could forward a decryption tool in exchange. But they hardly keep to their own part of the bargain, even after collecting the ransom fee – they either ignore the victim or send fake decryption software that does not work.

Victims that indicate the interest of complying with them are often asked to send across $980 as ransom. However, to railroad the victim into paying it without second thoughts, they may add a caveat that only half of the amount, i.e., $490, could be acceptable but provided the victim can remit it within a maximum of 72 hours or 3 days. It should be noted that cybercriminals mostly don’t accept any other payment method except via cryptocurrency.

The reason is quite apparent; making use of different forms of payment like bank deposits or money transfers would expose their real identity, thereby making it possible for them to be arrested. That is why they insist on receiving the cryptocurrency equivalent in their untraceable wallet. Going through all these troubles is never worth it, especially when you take into cognizance that they may either ghost you or forward a useless decryption tool.

There are other reasons as well that make it a bad idea to pay ransom to cybercriminals. In tandem with other top cybersecurity firms, our organization also discourages any ransom payment. Here are some of the reasons:

  • In most countries, paying ransom in any guise is considered illegal.
  • Such proceeds of crime encourage criminality and help them to enhance their operations.
  • When victims pay the ransom, cybercriminals consider them to be cash cows that can be extorted again in the future.
  • Victims paying ransom is the major reason why ransomware virus attacks haven’t been completely eliminated.

Victims affected by this described malware variant are advised to remove ZATE ransomware virus and any other related threats from their computers as soon as possible. The fastest way to delete malicious files and components is using a trustworthy antivirus solution, such as INTEGO Antivirus. You can read a full tutorial on how to securely prepare your computer for ransomware removal below.

Ransomware Summary

NameZATE Ransomware Virus
TypeRansomware; Crypto-malware; Virtual Extortion Virus
Encryption typeRSA 2048 + Salsa20
Previous versionsPOWD, TOHJ, TUIS, TURY, POHJ, POWZ (find full list here)
Cybercriminal emailssupport@fishmail.top and datarestorehelp@airmail.cc
Additional malware droppedAzorult or Vidar Trojan
DamageThe ransomware uses encryption to maliciously modify all files on the PC and marks their original names with .zate extension. Ransom notes called as _readme.txt will be dropped in every computer folder. This piece of malware usually drags VIDAR Stealer alongside it and also eliminates VSS from the system. On top of that, it tends to modify Windows HOSTS file to restrict computer user’s access to cybersecurity-related websites online.
Ransom note_readme.txt
Ransom demand$490-$980 in Bitcoin
DistributionVictims often download this ransomware along illegal torrent downloads, cracked software, activators, key generators or tools like KMSPico.
Known software cracks to contain this malwareCorel Draw, Tenorshare 4ukey, Adobe Photoshop, Cubase, Adobe Illustrator, Internet Download Manager, Tally, League of Legends.
Detection namesRansom:Win32/StopCrypt.MK!MTB (Microsoft), Gen:Heur.Mint.Zard.52 (B) (Emsisoft), HEUR:Trojan.Win32.Scarsi.gen (Kaspersky), Gen:Heur.Mint.Zard.52 (BitDefender), Trojan.MalPack.GS (Malwarebytes), ML.Attribute.HighConfidence (Symantec) see all detection name variations on VirusTotal
RemovalRemove ransomware and related malware from your PC using trustworthy software like INTEGO Antivirus.

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Also, note that ransomware viruses may also spread Remote Access Trojans (VIDAR, AZORULT) as secondary attachments.

Cybercriminals use them for different purposes, such as stealing software login details, banking information, credit card information, etc., and could be used in further scamming their victim. That is why it is very important to get rid of ransomware virus immediately after it is spotted on any computer.

Methods of malware distribution used by cybercriminals

Cybercriminals usually spread ransomware through deceptive methods such as emails and attachments, P2P sharing, and online torrent platforms.

Emails and accompanying attachments

Cybercriminals sometimes pretend to be agents or customer service personnel of global brands such as Amazon, DHL, Alibaba or eBay and will forward emails with accompanying attachments to random addresses. Cybercriminals will give the attachments transactional terms like Invoice, Order Summary, Tracking Number etc. The receiver may be curious enough to open them, thus triggering a ransomware virus attack. Therefore users should never open emails and attachments from questionable sources.

P2P sharing (torrents)

This is an illegal method of sharing software between users. Software copies that are distributed through this means are mostly fake versions cloned by cybercriminals. Those that source their software through this means are putting their computers at serious risk. Instead of using P2P data sharing, software users should do the right thing by downloading the original versions using the legitimate channels established by the copyright owners.

P2P sharing is closely tied to the use of online torrent platforms. Cybercriminals sometimes target software users that prefer getting them as freebies instead of paying the fees requested by the copyright owners. So, they upload the cloned versions to online torrent listings and make it accessible for all. However, unknown to those downloading them, such software copies are tainted with malware and often trigger ransomware virus attack when downloaded into any computer. To avoid that, software content should only be downloaded via the legitimate channels promoted by their copyright owners.

Deceptive online downloads

Cybercriminals also often try to bait potential victims by creating rogue websites that claim to provide premium content for free. Whenever an user attempts to download something from such websites, the alleged file can contain malware. Therefore, you should remember that files that are not accessible for free do not usually just await for you in some suspicious website. Changes are high that whoever uploaded the file and named it attractively for the audience has potentially malevolent intentions.

We came up with a list of popular software copies that are habitually cloned and used in spreading different forms of malware:

  • Microsoft Office;
  • Corel Draw;
  • Cubase;
  • Adobe Photoshop;
  • VMware Workstation;
  • FIFA 22;
  • League of Legends;
  • Adobe Illustrator;
  • Internet Download Manager;
  • HP Printer Drivers;
  • Tenorshare 4ukey.

This list is not exhaustive as there are so many others, but it’s just to give software users an idea. When you need to use these software copies and similar others, you’re advised to buy them legitimately.

Instantly remove ZATE ransomware virus

Endeavor to remove ZATE ransomware virus once it is found in any computer. This process is best done using INTEGO Antivirus because of its proven reliability.

In conclusion, here are other important steps to take:

  • Replace all existing passwords.
  • Make use of any available backup in recovering lost files.
  • Consider reporting to local authorities for possible action.


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:


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ZATE 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 ZATE 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 ZATE 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. For virus damage repair, consider using RESTORO.

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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

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  1. Wait until system loads and command prompt shows up.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

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Decrypt ZATE files

Fix and open large ZATE 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.

  1. Create a copy of encrypted file to a separate folder using Copy > Paste commands.
  2. Now, right-click the created copy and choose Rename. Select the ZATE extension and delete it. Press Enter to save changes.
  3. In the prompt asking whether you want to make the changes as file might become unusable, click OK.
  4. Try opening the file.

STOP/DJVU decryption tool usage guide

STOP/DJVU ransomware versions are grouped into old and new variants. ZATE Ransomware Virus is considered the new STOP/DJVU variant, just like POWD, TOHJ, TUIS, TURY, POHJ, POWZ (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 ZATE files, follow the given tutorial.

  1. Download the decryption tool from Emsisoft.
  2. Click the little arrow next to your download and choose Show in Folder.
  3. Now, right-click the file and choose Run as Administrator. If asked, enter administrator's password.
  4. In UAC window, click Yes.
  5. Click Yes to agree to software terms in both windows.
  6. 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.
  7. Click Decrypt to start restoring ZATE 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 ZATE 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 ZATE 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 ZATE Ransomware Virus should report the Internet crime incident to the official government fraud and scam website according to their country:

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

✓ How can I open .ZATE files?

You can only open ZATE files if you have the decryption key, or if you were affected by offline encryption type.

✓ How do I know if my files were encrypted with offline or online encryption?

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.

✓ My files contain very important information (family memories). Every tool I used says it is impossible to decrypt. What should I do?

Please follow the guidances provided by the official ZATE 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).

✓ I am afraid virus is still in my computer system. What should I do?

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.

✓ I saw several Youtube videos suggesting secret decryption tools. Can I trust them?

Beware of fake ZATE 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.

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