Remove .Locks Ransomware (frankhans@tuta.io)

On this post, you can gain knowledge about the notorious Locks ransomware virus. Also part of this page are Removal Guide, possible File Recovery of encrypted files, and Ways to Protect the Computer.

Locks ransomware is a computer virus that targets the majority of vital files especially documents, images, photos, videos, databases, archives, and similar data. It is associated to an email address frankhans@tuta.io, which means that victims must communicate with the attackers using this account and as written in the ransom note, $1,500 must be paid to restore the files.

This Locks virus attack is very much comparable to the actions of other ransomware such as XD Locker, Qlkm, Babuk Locker. They are notorious in using a complex algorithm technique to lock the files. It is obvious that blocking user’s access to the vital data is the main objective of ransomware. Aside from using a military grade encryption, Locks ransomware is going to append the data with .locks file extension. To illustrate, the common file abc.doc will transform into abc.doc.locks. Once the virus was able to accomplish the encryption, it will request victims to pay the attackers in order to restore access to encrypted files. This demand is stipulated in the ransom note file that the virus generates on the same folder as and affected data and it reads:

All your personal FILES are now ENCRYPTED!
Don’t worry, you can get back all your files I don’t want to lose your files too. If I want to do something nasty I would have wiped out all of your data, but that is not helping me. :)
So temporary all of your files are mine now until you pay the service cost of recovering them. If yo want to recover them contact me at the email below, I’ll be more than happy to help you to get out of this situation. You have got 48 hours exactly, before you lost your files forever.
Failing which, the price to recover double with every 48 hours passing! Rest assured, all your files will be recovered once payment is received.
The Price to get all things back to normal : USS 1500
Email : frankhans@tuta.io

Screenshot of Locks ransom note

Should you pay for Locks Ransomware?

Computer security experts and malware researchers are against the idea of paying the ransom money. Per their analysis, collected money were used to further commit more attacks and it can claim many more victims until this activity becomes an online cycle.

Moreover, paying the ransom does not guarantee full recovery of encrypted files. Some victims were even swindled. After paying the ransom money, no decryption software or key was provided. Locks ransomware authors can simply run away after receiving the payment as they operate in an untraceable environment.

Technical Data of Locks Ransomware

Technical Details
Threat NameLocks Ransomware
Threat TypeCrypto-virus, File Locker, Encryption Virus
File Extension.locks
Ransom Amount$1,500 (worth of Bitcoin)
Ransomware Note FileHOW TO DECRYPT FILES.txt
Attacker’s emailfrankhans@tuta.io
Discovered by@GrujaRS

Backup your files

One important step before proceeding with the procedures below is to backup your files. Ransomware are not the same. Each has its unique sets of payloads aside from encrypting the files with complex method. Others tend to delete the infected files after certain period, while others keep them concealed on hidden places. In addition, ransomware decryption tools are not guaranteed to be perfect, there are instances that files suffer from damages during the decryption process.

So, create a backup copy of your entire Locks encrypted files right now.

Locks Ransomware Removal Guide

First thing to do is remove the Locks virus before attempting the decryption. Remember that as long as the ransomware is active, it will repeatedly encrypt the files on the compromised computer.

Infection of Locks ransom virus is dangerous to the system because it can inject files that runs each time Windows starts. To prevent the malicious files from loading, Windows operating system must run with minimal process and it can be done through SafeMode With Networking.

Stage 1 : Temporarily Disable System Restore on Windows OS

Because Locks and relevant virus is capable of reinstating itself by exploiting the System Restore of Windows, we suggests that you temporary disable System Restore while executing the steps. This option is also helpful to effectively run a full scan on the computer.

Do not forget to enable back System Restore after completing the removal of Locks ransomware. This feature is vital in reinstating the operating system to previous normal working condition in case of problems or conflicts occurs.

Stage 2 : Start Windows in Safe Mode With Networking

Windows 10 Guide

1. Click on Windows logo and select Power icon when options pop-ups.
2. Select Restart from the options while pressing Shift key on the keyboard.
3. Choose an Option window will appear, select the Troubleshoot button.
4. On next window, please choose Advanced Option.
5. On Advanced Option window, click on Startup Settings and then, click Restart button to reboot the computer.
6. When Windows boot on Startup Settings, press function key F5 or number 5 on keyboard.

A simpler alternative for Windows 10 users is to scan the computer with Microsoft Defender Offline. This will run a virus scan in the recovery environment.

Windows 8 Guide

1. Click Windows Start icon at the lower left section of the screen.
2. Open Search window and type Advanced in the field. It will open General PC Settings.
3. Click on Advanced Startup and then, click on Restart Now button.
4. Once the computer starts in Advanced Startup option menu, select Troubleshoot.
5. Next, click on Advanced Options to reveal the next section.
6. Click Startup settings and then, click Restart button to boot the PC in Startup Settings.
7. Use function key F5 or number key 5 to Enable Safe Mode with Networking.

Stage 3 : Scan the Computer with Sophos Antivirus

Ransomware files are placed deeply into the system and on various locations, thus, thorough scanning is vital to totally remove Locks virus. Aside from our suggested tool, you may also run your own security program.

To remove Locks automatically, scanning the computer with this efficient anti-malware tool is suggested. This scanner does not just uncover known threats like viruses or malware, it is also effective in discovering hazardous ransomware like Locks.

1. Download Sophos Virus Removal Tool from the link below. Save the file on your computer where you can easily access it.

2. Once the download completes, browse the location of the file. Double-click to run the program and begin the install process.

Screnshot of Sophos Installer

3. On first windows of installation wizard, click Next to continue. Then, it will display the program’s License Agreement. You need to Accept the terms in order to proceed. If Windows prompts for User Account Control, please click Yes to proceed.

Screenshot of Sophos EULA Page

4. On succeeding windows, click Next or Continue to carry on with the installation. After completing the installation process, Launch Sophos Virus Removal Tool.

5. Internet connection is required when running this virus scanner in order to download important updates. Make sure that everything is up-to-date to effectively remove Locks ransomware and other relevant viruses.

6. Click the Start Scanning button to inspect the computer. This will check the system for presence of malicious objects, malware, and viruses. The tool reveals items that were found linked to Locks and other suspicious entities. Be sure to remove all identified threats.

Screenshot of Sophos Virus Scan

The above procedures should have totally eliminated Locks ransomware. However, if you found that there are still remnants of the virus, please proceed to succeeding procedures below.

Stage 4 : Double-check with Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool

1. Download the free scanner called Malicious Software Removal Tool.

Download MSRT

2. The tool automatically checks the operating system and suggest appropriate download version. Click on Download button to begin. Save the file to a convenient location, preferably on Desktop.

3. After downloading the file, Windows will prompt that download has completed. Click Run to start scanning for Locks ransomware. Another option is to browse the location folder and double click on the file to run.

MSRT Icon

4. The tool will display Welcome screen, click Next. Please note the message "This tool is not a replacement for an antivirus product." You must understand that this program is made specifically to find and remove malware, viruses, Trojans, and other harmful elements on the computer. It was not designed to protect the computer.

MSRT Welcome

5. Next, you will see Scan Type. Please choose Full Scan to ensure that all Locks ransom virus entities and other harmful files left on the computer will be found and removed. For advanced computer user, you can opt for Customized Scan, if there are other drives or folders you wanted to include in this scan.

MSRT Scan

6. Full scan may take a while, please wait for Malicious Software Removal Tool to complete the tasks. However, you may cancel the scan anytime by clicking on the Cancel button.

MSRT Scan

7. After scanning, the tool will reveal all identified threats. There may be other threats that our first scan fails to detect. Please remove/delete all detected items.

8. When removal procedure is complete, you may now close Malicious Software Removal Tool. We hope that Locks ransomware have been completely deleted from the computer. Please restart Windows to proceed with the normal operation.

Recover Files from Locks Ransomware Infection

On this section, we will provide ways to decrypt files infected with Locks ransomware. Aside from dedicated decryption software and common tools, other options for file recovery are provided. As much as we can, we will update this area whenever there is new and more suitable decryption tool was made available.

Decrypting Locks infected files with Emsisoft Tools

This service from Emsisoft is helpful in unlocking encrypted files without paying the ransom. It gives three ways to detect the ransomware and provide suitable recovery method:

Upload ransom note – This is usually the .txt or .hta files that was generated by Locks ransomware.

Upload the encrypted file – The actual encrypted file. Choose the one that is less than 8MB in size.

Contact information – Enter the email address or any links provided as it appears in the ransom note of Locks virus.

Emsisoft Tools

After submitting any of the appropriate data, Emsisoft will attempt to identify the ransomware and provide keys if there are available.

Option 1: Windows Previous Version Tool

Windows Vista and Windows 7 have a feature called Previous Versions. However, this tool is only usable if restore point was made prior to ransomware infection. To use this tool as "recovery option" for files encypted by Locks virus, please follow these steps:

1. Open My Computer or Windows Explorer.

2. Right-click on the affected files or folders. From the drop-down list, please click on Restore previous versions.

3. New window will open display all backup copy of files and folders you wanted to recover. Choose the appropriate file and click on Open, Copy, or Restore. Restoring selected files overwrites the current locked files on the computer. The tool is not actually recovering files encrypted by Locks. Instead, it restores files from backup copy.

Option 2: Use ShadowExplorer to restore files encrypted by Locks Ransomware

Just like Previous Version tool, ShadowExplorer is taking advantage of shadow copy created by Windows. This tool allows you to retrieve older version of files before it was encrypted by Locks ransomware.

1. Download ShadowExplorer from the official web site.

2. Install the program with the default settings.

3. The program should run automatically after installation. If not, double-click on ShadowExplorer icon.

4. You can see the drop-down list on top of the console. Please select proper drive and the most recent point-in-time shadow copies of files you wish to restore prior to Locks ransomware infection.

shadow3

5. Right-click on the Drive, Folder, or File you wish to restore and click Export...

6. Lastly, ShadowExplorer will prompt for location where you want to save the copy of recovered files.

How to protect the computer from Locks ransomware?

After the removal of the ransomware, it is important to prevent similar incident from happening again. In order to protect the computer effectively, computer user must know how Locks ransomware was able to infect the computer. To minimize the possible infection, staying away from the common sources of this virus is crucial.

How Locks ransomware can infect your computer?

The method of infecting the computers was found to be similar as other common viruses. Though, ransomware like Locks is seen to have efficient deployment via spam email messages, web injectors, malicious software installers, misleading online advertisements, and through another virus infection.

Once the virus is executed, it immediately infects the system. Then, Locks ransomware communicates to remote server so that unique key can be generated for the specific computer. After acquiring the key, it starts to decrypt target files using a complex method that is almost unbreakable. On the last stage of the attack, Locks ransomware demands for ransom money as payment for the decryption tool. To further understand the attack scheme, we have included an infographic below.

Infographic image of ransomware attack stages
You can print, download, or share the infographic by clicking the image.

Securing the computer against ransomware attack

Do a Regular File Back-up - Always backup your data on a separate storage devices such as external hard drives, optical discs, or online backup services.

Keep Your Software Updated - Make sure that you have the latest software updates especially on the operating system. Recent updates often contain vital security patches to help protect the computer against all forms of threats.

Install a Security Program - Protect the computer with effective anti-virus application using efficient real-time scanning. Regularly run a complete scan to check the computer for presence of malware.

Protect your files with Controlled Folder Access (Windows 10)

For Windows 10 users, aside from protecting the computer using anti-virus or anti-malware programs, one way to protect against ransomware attack is by using Controlled Folder Access. This feature of Windows Defender Security Center may not prevent the Locks ransomware infection, but it can protect the folder and files in general. Follow the steps to enable Controlled Folder Access in Windows 10.

1. Go to Windows 10 Taskbar and search for Windows Defender Security Center.

2. Open Windows Defender Security Center and click on Virus & Threat Protection icon.

Virus and Threat Protection

3. On next window, please click on Ransomware Protection.

4. Under Controlled Folder Access section, switch the slider to On. That will enable the feature and protect the folder against Locks or any type of ransomware.

Controlled Folder Access

5. Click on Protected Folderslink to include additional folders. Make sure that folders where important files are located should be included in the list.

Add Protected Folder

Troubleshooting Guide

Certain programs maybe blocked by Controlled Folder Access feature. To fix the issue, simply have the specific program to be white listed.

1. Under Protected Folders, click Allow an app through controlled folder access.

2. Next, click the Add an allowed app and include the target executable file.

This Controlled Folder Access feature is one way to protect files against Locks. Other important things to do in keeping files safe against ransomware is through early prevention like keeping programs updated, install an efficient security program, an do regular file backup on a separate media drive.

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