ATLAS ransomware - How to remove

ATLAS crypto-virus has been verified to be a variation of an older ransomware sample, going by the name of CHIP. We have dedicated a thorough article to this infection back in November of 2017 and after that, its activity slowly disappeared or was so minimum that it did not trigger any radars. In April of 2017, founding-fathers of CHIP have re-emerged with a new product: ATLAS ransomware. Exactly like the prior virus, ATLAS infection proceeds with two algorithms for encryption. First one is a regular AES which is quite commonly selected by creators of crypto-infections, especially the ones that are based on HiddenTear. However, it ciphers the decryption code with a RSA-512 bit key. As soon as files are damaged, the filenames won’t remain the same: they will become jumbled and unrecognizable. Executables will also be joined by an additional extension: .ATLAS. This is how ransomware points out which data is left futile.

Thorough analysis of ATLAS ransomware

ATLAS ransomware labels separate victims with different ID numbers that are supposed to help them decide upon a size of ransom to demand. This infection does not include a screen-locker, nor does it make modifications to the set desktop backgrounds. However, it does rearrange filenames of the data it corrupts and appends an original extension at the end. The ransom note is to be appended either on desktops or in each folder that contains encrypted executables. ATLAS_FILES.txt is to serve as the primary provider of information about this specific ransomware.

ATLAS ransomware

In the note, victims are required to contact either one of the three provided email addresses. Hackers behind [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] will consistently provide you with similar information. Therefore, it does not really matter which victims choose to contact. Since ATLAS_FILES.txt file does not contain any information about the demands for the decryption key, these details will be made available via the email hackers send to their victims.

The exact sum, demanded as the ransom, might be different for individual victims. It can be generated according to the amount of spoiled files. However, it is also possible that crooks have set a bar already and will inform every victim of the same fee.

Differently from CHIP virus, ATLAS ransomware does not feature TOR websites. All of the information is to be acquired from the .txt file and conversation with hackers via email. In order to be helpful to security researchers who are currently attempting to design a free decryption tool, you should engage in an email transaction with the authors of ATLAS virus.

Not to pay the ransom, of course. Instead, you should demand that a couple of your files would be decrypted as a proof that crooks are actually capable of implementing their promises. Try to pick the biggest encrypted files you can find. Even if they do prove that the decryption is possible, you are discouraged from paying the sum of bitcoins they indicate as the ransom.

ATLAS ransomware: currently no way to decrypt

This infection was first spotted a couple of days ago. Naturally, there is no way to decrypt files just yet. If you have been compromised by this ransomware and your files contain .ATLAS extension, we are sure that you are searching the Internet for possible ways to decipher them. Even though the ransomware clearly states that victims should not use public decryptors, we say go for it. Before actually doing so, you are recommended to eliminate the infection first. This can be done with the help from Spyhunter, Malwarebytes and Hitman. However, as a tip to prevent ransomware from making a difference, we advise users to backup, backup and backup their data.

How does the payload of ATLAS ransomware travel?

CHIP virus was noticed to be spread by exploit kits: ATLAS ransomware could decide to go the same way. However, there is also a great chance that this variant will also be introduced thanks to malicious campaigns of spam. If you do notice unexpected letters in your inbox, make sure to check the sender before responding or reacting to them. If a message contains an attachment or a link, you are to act very cautious. The offered file might be malicious or the website might lead to a different domain than was promised.

How to recover ATLAS 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 ATLAS virus 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 ATLAS 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 ATLAS virus. You can check other tools here.  

Step 3. Restore ATLAS 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 ATLAS virus 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 ATLAS 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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