Got backups? In response to the security community’s comments on the futile attempt to directly attack the 1024 bit RSA keys using distributed computing, Kaspersky Labs are now reasonably recommending that affected end users lacking backups of their encrypted data, take advantage of data recovery tools:

Currently, it’s not possible to decrypt files encrypted by Gpcode.ak without theStop GPcode private key. However, there is a way in which encrypted files can be restored to their original condition. When encrypting files, Gpcode.ak creates a new file next to the file that it intends to encrypt. Gpcode writes the encrypted data from the original file data to this new file, and then deletes the original file.

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It’s known that it is possible to restore a deleted file as long as the data on disk has not been significantly modified. This is why, right from the beginning, it is recommended that users do not reboot their computers, but to seek professional assistance. 

Find out how to restore files encrypted by the GPcode ransomware by exploiting a weakness in the process in which the malware deletes the original files, why directly attacking the encryption algorithm was a futile attempt right from the very beginning, how would the malware authors adapt in the future and what can you do about it?

Even though they’ve successfully implemented StopGPcode, the encryption algorithm this time, the only weakness in the process remains the fact that the malware authors are not securely deleting the original files, making them susceptible to recovery using data carving techniques, or through the use of plain simple point’n'click forensics software. If backups are not present, you would have to apply some marginal thinking given that not all of your affected files can be recoved, and therefore, recovering 500 out of 1000 is better than recovering none, isn’t it? Whatever approach you take try to adapt to the situation, and don’t pay. More info on the Stopgpcode utility released by Kaspersky:

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To complete the recovery process, a free utility called "StopGpcode" has been created that will sort and rename your restored files. The utility will process the entire disk and compare the sizes of encrypted and recovered files. The program will use the file size as a basis for determining the original location and name of each recovered file. The utility will try to determine the correct name and location for each file, recreating your original folders and file names within a folder called “sorted”. If the utility cannot determine the original file name, the file will be saved to a folder called “conflicted”.

Next to the step-by-step tutorial on using PhotoRec, a data recovery utility, you can also watch a video of the process, or consider using third-party data recovery utilities next to their web based alternatives .

Why was the distributed cracking futile at the first place?

Mostly because the lack of easy to measure return on investment and applicability in a real-life situation - they could have simply started using GPcode variants with new and stronger keys on a per variant basis. The malware authors were also smart enough not to release a universal decryptor including the private key for all of their campaigns, instead, upon providing a custom built decryptor to the affected party, first they request the public key used in the encryption process to later one ship a customer tailored decryptor that works only for the encrypted files using the public key in question. Compared to the majority of malware variants attempting to infect as many hosts as possible, GPcode’s currently targeted approach is willing to sacrifice some efficiency and emphasize on quality.

How would the malware authors adapt in the future?

According to the author of Gpcode, or the person responsible for processing the decryptor requests, new versions with stronger encryption are already in the works, including commodity malware features such as anti-sandboxing, polymorphism and self-propagating abilities. This would result in a awkward situation, for instance, for the time being two out of the four emails used by the authors of GPcode aren’t even bothering to respond back to the infected party, so you can imagine the delays with responding given that GPcode starts self-propagating. They will basically end up with a situation where the number of affected people would outpace their capability to provide them with a custom built decryptor in a timely manner, even if someone’s willing to pay the ransom.

With the entire GPcode ransomware fiasco slowly becoming a tool in the marketing arsenal of a backup company that can now use GPcode as a fear mongering tactic, malware free backups are once again reminding us of their usefulness.

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