Alfa Ransomware - How to remove

Alfa Ransomware

Alfa (also Alpha) ransomware is a new ransomware developed by the hackers of Cerber cryptomalware. This new ransomware threat is still being analyzed by cyber security experts at present. Thus, more detailed information is to be provided later on. So now let us proceed with the breaking news about Alfa virus.

About Alfa Ransomware

The two names this ransomware is called derives from different sources. The name ‘‘Alpha’’ comes from the ransom note, whereas in TOR payment website this cryptomalware is called by the name of ‘‘Alfa’’. So, as we have already made a hint, this file-encrypting virus employs TOR platform to get the payments transferred by the victims. But, first of all, let us have a look at the encryption process. Alfa encoder uses asymmetric encryption algorithm, that is two keys are generated – the private key and the public key. The private key is stored on the remote server in charge of hackers. Once the malware climbs on your computer, it scans the local drives for files to be encrypted. This ransomware aims at multiple file types: text files, audio files, images, videos, etc.

The files affected get another filename extension appended to them, that is .bin extension. For instance, Report.ppt is turned into Report.ppt.bin. But it has also been reported that [10_random_chars].bin extension is added to the corrupted files. In this case, Report.ppt is converted to Report.ppt.4582364597.bin. So, as you can see, this encrypter is not named after the extension as many of ransomwares are, for example, 8lock8 ransomware, etc. Alfa cryptomalware also drops two files: README_HOW_TO_DECRYPT_YOUR_FILES.HTML and README_HOW_TO_DECRYPT_YOUR_FILES.TXT in two folders – the Desktop folder and the Documents folder. The ransom note nails down what happened and the instructions what to do.

As it has been mentioned, the ransom must be paid on TOR website. The TOR payment website is available at the addresses alfadecrfgqkcw6m.onion and 2uxzf2mxe23f3clc.onion. These addresses are only accessible through TOR browser which is to be installed in order to transfer the payment. You will also need to insert the unique ID listed in the ransom message. The size of the ransom is reported to be 1.5 BTC (Bitcoins) which equals to 966.27 USD at the moment of writing this article. As a rule, it is threatened that the price for the decryptor will be increased gradually – each 3 days it is said to be increased by 20%. These cyber crooks also offer a ‘‘service’’ of a single file decryption to encourage you to make the payment.

Alfa encrypter will start automatically whenever you launch your windows. Rebooting the computer’s system after the ransomware has finished the encryption process is just a running out of time. The autorun MSEstl is created and the executable msestl32.exe is placed in %UserProfile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Essential. MSEstl runs msestl32.exe every time Windows is launched. So the executable of the virus is executed, that is Alfa ransomware starts running.

How is Alfa Ransomware Distributed?

As it is typical of ransomware viruses, Alfa ransomware is a Trojan Virus. Infected .wsf and .doc files are added as attachments to e-mails sent to the victims. These e-mails fall into the spam folder of the e-mail boxes of targeted users. They can be completely secretive with no sender at all or they can disguise as some official letters from one’s local institutions or international companies. The malicious files require macros to be enabled to be opened. Once, the user agrees to do that, the malicious code of the ransomware is executed.

How to Decrypt Files Encrypted by Alfa Ransomware?

No silver lining in the clouds so far. There is no decryptor developed for Alfa Trojan Virus by reliable security researches. This ransomware deletes Shadow Volume Copies, so it does not matter whether you were running Shadow Volume Service or not. But it does matter, whether you backed your data up or not. If you haven’t, the only way you can retrieve your data is by applying data recovery tools such as software by Kaspersky Lab, R-Studio, PhotoRec, Recuva, etc. Please, back up your data in the future to have 100% guarantee to use your important data even after ransomware attack. There is a lot of devices and services to be employed for the latter purpose, for example, USB keys, Cloud storages, etc.

Do not forget to make a copy of your infected drive (to use it when the decryptor is released) and remove the malware before the restoration of the data. Apply automatic malware removal tools such as Spyhunter or Malwarebytes. Automatic removal can do more than the manual one since it cleans every corner of your computer’s system which cannot be said about the manual works. However, we still provide you with the manual removal instructions for Alfa ransomware which are to be found just beneath this article.

How to recover Alfa Ransomware encrypted files and remove the virus

Step 1. Restore system into last known good state using system restore

1. Reboot your computer to Safe Mode with Command Prompt:

for Windows 7 / Vista/ XP
  • Start Shutdown RestartOK.
  • Press F8 key repeatedly until Advanced Boot Options window appears.
  • Choose Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Windows 7 enter safe mode

for Windows 8 / 10
  • Press Power at Windows login screen. Then press and hold Shift key and click Restart. Windows 8-10 restart to safe mode
  • Choose TroubleshootAdvanced OptionsStartup Settings and click Restart.
  • When it loads, select Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt from the list of Startup Settings. Windows 8-10 enter safe mode

2.Restore System files and settings.

  • When Command Prompt mode loads, enter cd restore and press Enter.
  • Then enter rstrui.exe and press Enter again.CMD commands
  • Click “Next” in the windows that appeared. Restore point img1
  • Select one of the Restore Points that are available before Alfa Ransomware has infiltrated to your system and then click “Next”. Restore point img2
  • To start System restore click “Yes”. Restore point img3

Step 2. Complete removal of Alfa Ransomware

After restoring your system, it is recommended to scan your computer with an anti-malware program, like Spyhunter and remove all malicious files related to Alfa Ransomware. You can check other tools here.  

Step 3. Restore Alfa Ransomware affected files using Shadow Volume Copies

If you do not use System Restore option on your operating system, there is a chance to use shadow copy snapshots. They store copies of your files that point of time when the system restore snapshot was created. Usually Alfa Ransomware tries to delete all possible Shadow Volume Copies, so this methods may not work on all computers. However, it may fail to do so. Shadow Volume Copies are only available with Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. There are two ways to retrieve your files via Shadow Volume Copy. You can do it using native Windows Previous Versions or via Shadow Explorer. a) Native Windows Previous Versions Right-click on an encrypted file and select PropertiesPrevious versions tab. Now you will see all available copies of that particular file and the time when it was stored in a Shadow Volume Copy. Choose the version of the file you want to retrieve and click Copy if you want to save it to some directory of your own, or Restore if you want to replace existing, encrypted file. If you want to see the content of file first, just click Open.
Previous version
b) Shadow Explorer It is a program that can be found online for free. You can download either a full or a portable version of Shadow Explorer. Open the program. On the left top corner select the drive where the file you are looking for is a stored. You will see all folders on that drive. To retrieve a whole folder, right-click on it and select “Export”. Then choose where you want it to be stored.
Shadow explorer

Step 4. Use Data Recovery programs to recover Alfa Ransomware encrypted files

There are several data recovery programs that might recover encrypted files as well. This does not work in all cases but you can try this:
  • We suggest using another PC and connect the infected hard drive as slave. It is still possible to do this on infected PC though.
  • Download a data recovery program.
  • Install and scan for recently deleted files. Data Recovery Pro
Note: In many cases it is impossible to restore data files affected by modern ransomware. Thus I recommend using decent cloud backup software as precaution. We recommend checking out Carbonite, BackBlaze, CrashPlan or Mozy Home.
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