Potato ransomware - How to remove

Potato is a quite quirky title to give to hackers’ chef-d’oeuvre: commonly mighty, intimidating words are selected to represent ransomware. Satan, Marlboro, MafiaWare, FireCrypt, Erebus, Guster are only a couple of names that are used to refer to crypto-viruses and they definitely sound intense. Just yesterday security researchers came across a new member of malware and it introduced itself as a Potato virus. On the Internet, one joke has been spreading like wildfire. When people feel apologetic and guess that their actions disturbed someone’s peace, a phrase “here’s a potato”, followed by an image of, well, potatoes, is meant to serve as a compensation. Of course this is just a funny fact, but once we discovered about a Potato virus, we could not help but to remember this joke. Potato ransomware virus, despite its colloquial title, does not seem like a weak infection (at least from what we have managed to gather). There is a possibility that a DarkComet remote access Trojan is exploited to distribute and run this sample. This means that the Trojan obtains remote access to the targeted device and download all of the necessary files, executes them and encrypts files that are stored in hard drives.

Important information about Potato ransomware and its activity in an infected device

Potato crypto-virus can target devices that belong to companies and switch to attacking home computers. This variant is quite unique: and not only because it is called after a very popular vegetable. Maybe this title was selected so this ransomware would be automatically underestimated, but it really does not seem like an easy sample to defeat. One of the most frightening aspects that should be mentioned is that hackers exploit DarkComet Trojan to gain remote access to victims’ computers. If this action is completed without any hitches, hackers are going to insert Potato.exe and execute it. Then, a whole bunch of files are going to be appended from the primary executable. This implanted data includes the ransom notes and other files that are crucial for a successful ransomware invasion.

Potato virus then does not hesitate and starts a batch script which is supposed to encode files with AES-256 cipher. Also, users will be able to find two files that will be related to this infection. An HTML file called READ ME is going to transfer users’ to a website in TOR browser. In order for it to properly open, users have to download the required browser. README.png file is going to present a text with the important information about Potato virus. In this ransom note, infection also explains to place a folder with a couple of other files: ID_number.txt with a unique number for each victim, encrypted.txt which contains the list of encrypted files, and decryptor.exe which will only become functional with a decryption key.

In the provided TOR website, users are advised to enter their unique ID and proceed to further instructions. We assume that after clicking “GET KEY” button, users are going to be introduced with demands for payment and the exact fee. Also, hackers leave their email address so victims would be able to contact them: [email protected]. It is possible that the amount of ransom depends on the amount of encrypted files. In addition to that, ransomware infection also appends an extension to all of the encrypted data: .potato.

What is known about the decryption of files that Potato ransomware corrupts?

Potato crypto-virus is a fresh addition to the ransomware family, and a solid one at that. Recently more and more innovative viruses began to appear, like Spora or Satan, reminding us that 2017 won’t be the year when hackers wave a white flag. It is yet undetermined whether creating a free file-recovery tool is a possibility, but we are sure that with enough effort, experts are going to be able to design a functional tool. Until that happens, you should not consider contacting the hackers. Also, NEVER pay the demanded ransom because it will only mean that you have surrendered. Hackers might not even provide you with a decryption key and your money will go to waste. A more recommended course of action is to copy all of the encrypted data, place it in another location wait until the free decryptor is available. You should also remove Potato virus, but more on this subject later. The light at the end of the tunnel in this case is the fact that this infection appears to leave Shadow Volume Copies intact: this means that you can restore them! Try the latter option or others that are mentioned in the section below.

How is Potato ransomware inserted into devices?

As we have indicated, Potato virus can be exploiting DarkComet remote access Trojan to install its executable into devices. This is not a new strategy but it is a little different from the most popular tactics: sending spam letters with malicious executables. Using RATs is a quite practical decision since it is affordable by many as the fees for purchasing DarkComets or BlackShades have dropped. Even though an attack by RAT sounds quite complicated, it is not that difficult to pursue. It also does not require high-level of skills.

You should detect and remove Potato virus from your system. Follow our advises given previously and stay safe! Lastly, you could use any of these: Spyhunter or Malwarebytes as your protector from malware.

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

Step 3. Restore Potato 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 Potato 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 Potato 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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