Maak malware is a type of computer virus that infiltrates your PC, encrypts your documents, and then asks to pay the ransom for file decryption. Besides these unwanted actions, that malware also changes some important settings and can even suspend your security tool.
|Damage||All files are encrypted and cannot be opened without paying a ransom. Additional password-stealing trojans and malware infections can be installed together with a ransomware infection.|
|Maak Removal Tool||To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license. 6 days free trial available.|
Maak malware – what is it?
Maak ransomware can correctly be classified as a STOP/Djvu virus family. That type of computer virus is aimed on individuals. This feature supposes that Maak does not carry any type of additional malware, which usually helps malware of various other families to control your computer. Since most people do not have anything valuable on their PCs, there is no need to use other malware that increases the risk of failure of the whole ransomware injection.
The common signs of that virus activity is the emersion of .maak files in your folders, instead of the document you used to have. The photo.jpg turns into photo.jpg.maak, report.xlsx – into report.xlsx.maak and so on. You cannot to prevent this process, and can’t open that files – they are ciphered with quite strong algorithm.
You can also see different other signs of virus activity. Spontaneously blocked Microsoft Defender and inability to open the famous anti-malware forums or sites, where the malware removal and file decryption guides are published. You will see how it works in the paragraph below. The malware removal and decryption guide are also available – check below how to remove Maak virus and get the .maak files back.
How did Maak ransomware encrypt my files?
After the malware injection, the Maak virus starts a connection with its command and control server. This server is commanded by malware maintainers – fraudsters who manage the distribution of this ransomware. Another activity which is performed by those crooks is answering the email messages of victims, who intend to get their files back.
The documents are ciphered with one of the strongest encryption algorithm – AES-256. The digit in the name of this algo means the power of two – 2^256 for this case. 78-digit number of possible decryption keys variations – it is impossible to brute force it. As cipher analysts say, it will need more time than our planet can estimate to exist, even if you make use of the most powerful computer system. In each folder that contains the encrypted documents, Maak ransomware creates the _readme.txt file with the following contents:
ATTENTION! Don't worry, you can return all your files! All your files like photos, databases, documents and other important are encrypted with strongest encryption and unique key. The only method of recovering files is to purchase decrypt tool and unique key for you. This software will decrypt all your encrypted files. What guarantees you have? You can send one of your encrypted file from your PC and we decrypt it for free. But we can decrypt only 1 file for free. File must not contain valuable information. You can get and look video overview decrypt tool: https://we.tl/t-WJa63R98Ku Price of private key and decrypt software is $980. Discount 50% available if you contact us first 72 hours, that's price for you is $490. Please note that you'll never restore your data without payment. Check your e-mail "Spam" or "Junk" folder if you don't get answer more than 6 hours. To get this software you need write on our e-mail: email@example.com Reserve e-mail address to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org Your personal ID: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Nevertheless, you can still open some of your files. The Maak malware ciphers only the initial 150 KB of each file, but the other piece of this document can be opened. Primarily, it works best with audio/video files, which are surely bigger than 150 kilobytes. Not each media player is able to open these files – WinAmp is the best option, since it is free and well-tested. First seconds of each file will be silent – this part is encrypted – but the rest of the file will be accessible like nothing happened.
Is Maak ransomware dangerous for my PC?
As it was described several paragraphs above, ransomware is not only about encrypting the files. Maak ransomware makes the changes in your system in order to prevent searching the malware removal and file decryption guides. Malware does not establish the software obstacle – it just modifies the settings, primarily – networking and security configurations.
Among the networking configurations, the most damaged item is the HOSTS configuration file. This text file has the DNS-address configurations, which are used by the web browsers while requesting to the website server. If you add a specific DNS-address for the certain site, your browser will connect that website through that DNS next time. Ransomware alters this file, adding the non-existent DNS, so any of the web browsers will show you the “Unable to resolve the DNS-address” error.
Other alterations done by the virus are aimed at prevention of fast detection of itself, and also preventing the installation of the majority of security tools. Maak ransomware makes several modifications in Group Policies – the system setting application which allows to alter the rights of each app. In such a way, malware disables the Microsoft Defender and various other anti-malware programs, and also prevents the launch of antivirus installation files.
How did I get infected?
Throughout the whole term while STOP/Djvu family is active, it was using dubious software as the main method of ransomware injection. Under the term of questionable applications I mean software that are already not supported by the developer and distributed through the third-party websites. These programs may be cracked, to make them usable without buying any license. One more example of such a program class is different hacking tools – cheat engines, keygens, Windows activation tools and so on.
Such applications may be distributed in different methods – through the website that offers a downloading link, or through the p2p networks – ThePirateBay, eMule and so on. All these sources are known as the biggest computer piracy websites. Folks use these pages to get various programs or games for free, even if they must be purchased. No one can stop the users who crack these programs from adding malware of some sort to the files of the hacked app. Hacktools, meanwhile, are created for outlaw purposes, so their developers can easily insert the virus under the guise of some program element.
These cracked programs, regardless of their source, are one of the most often carriers for various viruses, and surely the most used one for Maak virus. The best solution is to avoid using of it, and not only because of malware injection risks. Avoiding the license purchase is an outlaw action, and both hackers and users who use hacked apps fall under the charge of piracy.
How do I remove Maak ransomware?
The Maak malware is pretty hard to remove manually. Really, because of the amount of changes it makes in your computer, it is almost impossible to find them all and fix. The best option is to make use of antivirus programs. But which one to choose?
You may read the offers to use Microsoft Defender, which is already in your Windows. Nonetheless, as it was mentioned before, the majority of STOP/Djvu ransomware examples disable it even before the ciphering procedure. Making use of the third-party tool is the only possible option – and I can recommend you the GridinSoft Anti-Malware as an option for that case. It has perfect detection abilities, so the malware will not be missed. It is also capable of system recovery, which is heavily needed after the Maak virus attack.
To remove Maak malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software.
After the ransomware removal, you can go to file decryption. Malware removal is needed to prevent the repeating ciphering of your files: while Maak ransomware is active, it will not miss any unencrypted file.
How to decrypt the .maak files?
There are two ways to recover your files after a Maak malware attack. First one and the most popular is file decryption. It is conducted with a special tool, designed by Emsisoft, and called Emsisoft Decryptor for STOP/Djvu. This program is free. Analysts update its decryption keys databases as often as possible, so you will surely get your files back, sooner or later.
Another way to get your files back is to try to recover them from your disk drives. Since ransomware deletes them and substitutes with an encrypted copy, the residue of the documents are still kept on the disk drive. After the removal, the information about them is removed from the file system, but not from a disk. Special apps, like PhotoRec, are able to recover these files. It is free, too, and may also be used for file recovery in case when you have deleted something unintentionally.
Decrypting the .maak files with Emsisoft Decrypter for STOP/Djvu
Download and install Emsisoft Decrypter tool. Agree with its EULA and continue to the interface.
The interface of this program is extremely easy. All you have to do is to select the folder where the encrypted files are stored, and wait. If the program has the decryption key which corresponds to your ransomware case – it will decrypt it.
During the use of Emsisoft Decrypter for STOP/Djvu, you may observe various error messages. Don’t worry, that does not mean that you did something wrong or a program does not work properly. Each of these errors refer to a specific case. Here is the explanation:
Error: Unable to decrypt file with ID: [your ID]
The program does not have a corresponding key for your case. You need to wait for some time until the key database will be updated.
No key for new variant online ID: [your ID]
Notice: this ID appears to be an online ID, decryption is impossible.
This error means that your files are encrypted with an online key. In such a case, the decryption key is unique and stored on the remote server, controlled by crooks. Unfortunately, the decryption 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.
Ransomware uses the offline key to encrypt your files. This key is not unique, so you likely have it in common with another victim. Since offline keys must be collected, too, it is important to keep calm and wait until the analysts team finds one which will fit your case.
Remote name could not be resolved
This error indicates that the program has problems with DNS on your computer. That’s a clear sign of malicious alterations in your HOSTS file. Reset it using the official Microsoft guide.
Recovering the .maak files with PhotoRec tool
PhotoRec is an open-source tool, which is created to recover the deleted or lost files from the disk. It checks each disk sector for the residues of deleted files, and then tries to recover them. That app is able to recover the files of more than 400 different formats. Because of the described feature of ransomware encryption mechanism, it is possible to use this tool to get the original, unencrypted files back.
Download PhotoRec from the official website. It is absolutely free, however, its developer warns that he does not guarantee that this program will be 100% effective for file recovery purposes. Moreover, even paid apps can barely give you such a guarantee, because of the chain of random factors that can make the file recovery harder.
Unzip the downloaded archive to the folder you like. Don’t worry because of its name – TestDisk – this is the name of the utility developed by the same company. They decided to spread it together since PhotoRec and TestDisk are often used together. Among the unzipped files, search for qphotorec_win.exe file. Run this executable file.
Before you can start the recovery process, you need to specify several settings. In the drop-down list, choose the logic disk where the files were stored before the encryption.
Then, you need to specify the file formats you need to recover. It may be difficult to scroll all 400+ formats, luckily, they are sorted by alphabetical order.
Finally, name the folder you want to use as a container for recovered files. The program will likely dig out a lot of useless files, which were deleted intentionally, so desktop is a bad solution. The best option is to use the USB-drive.
After these easy manipulations, you may just press the “Search” button (it turns active if you specified all required parameters). The recovery process may take several hours, so keep patient. It is recommended not to use the computer during this term, since you may overwrite some files you are intending to recover.
Frequently Asked Questions
✔️Are the files encrypted by Maak ransomware dangerous?
No. Maak files is not a virus, it is not able to inject its code into the files and force them to execute it. The .EXT files are just the same as regular ones, but encrypted and cannot be opened in the usual way. You may store it together with normal files without any fears.
✔️Is it possible that antivirus software will delete the encrypted files?
As I have mentioned in a previous paragraph, encrypted files are not dangerous. Hence, good anti-malware programs like GridinSoft Anti-Malware will not trigger on them. Meanwhile, some of the “disk cleaning tools” may remove them, stating that they belong to the unknown format and are likely broken.
✔️The Emsisoft tool says my files are encrypted with the online key and cannot be decrypted. What do I need to do?
It is very unpleasant to hear that the files you have are likely lost. Ransomware creators lie a lot in order to scare their victims, but they tell the truth in claims about the strength of the encryption. Your decryption key is stored on their servers, and it is impossible to select it because of the strength of the encryption mechanism.
Try other recovery methods – through the PhotoRec, or using the previously created backups. Search for the previous versions of these files – getting back a part of your dissertation, for example, is better than missing it all.
Last option is just waiting. When the cyber police caughts the crooks who create and distribute ransomware, first get the decryption keys and publish it. Emsisoft analysts will surely take these keys and add them to the Decryptor databases. In some cases, ransomware creators may publish the rest of the keys when they stop their activity.
✔️Not all of my .maak files are decrypted. What do I need to do?
The situation when the Emsisoft Decryptor failed to decrypt several files usually happens when you have not added the correct file pair for the certain file format. Another case when this problem may appear is when some problem occurred during the decryption process – for example, RAM limit reached. Try to perform the decryption process once again.
Another situation when the Decryptor app may leave your files unencrypted is when ransomware uses different keys for certain files. For example, it may use offline keys for a short period of time when it has connection issues. The Emsisoft tool is not able to check both key types simultaneously, so you need to launch the decryption again, in order to repeat the process.