AGHZ Virus (.AGHZ Files Ransomware) Decrypt + Removal Tool

Written by Brendan Smith
During my analysis of malware samples submitted to VirusTotal, I made an intriguing discovery. I uncovered the Aghz ransomware, which belongs to the STOP/Djvu ransomware family. This particular ransomware not only encrypts files but also adds an extension called “.aghz” to the original filenames. To illustrate, a file initially known as “a.jpg” would undergo a transformation and become “a.jpg.aghz“, while “b.doc” would be renamed as “b.doc.aghz“.

I have compiled an extensive list of potential solutions, tips, and best practices to neutralize the Aghz virus and recover encrypted files. Depending on the circumstances, file recovery may be either straightforward or impossible.

The Aghz ransomware employs a unique key for each victim, with one exception:

  • If Aghz fails to establish a connection with the command and control server (C&C Server) before initiating the encryption process, it resorts to the offline key. This particular key is shared among all victims, offering the possibility of decrypting files affected by a ransomware attack.
Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith
IT Security Expert
First, scan your PC with antivirus tool!
I will try to help you remove Aghz virus and will assist how to decrypt or restore encrypted files. There are several universal methods for recovering encrypted .aghz files, which will be demonstrated below. It is vital to read the entire instruction manual carefully and make sure to understand it all. Do not skip any steps. Each of these steps is very important and must be completed by you.
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What is Aghz virus?

☝️ Aghz can be correctly identify as a STOP/DJVU ransomware virus.

The Aghz ransomware is a kind of malware that encrypted your files and then forces you to pay to restore them. The image below gives a clear vision of how the files with “.aghz” extension look like:

Aghz Virus - encrypted .aghz files

Aghz File (STOP/DJVU Ransomware)

Name Aghz Virus
Ransomware family1 DJVU/STOP2 ransomware
Extension .aghz
Ransomware note _readme.txt
Ransom From $490 to $980 (in Bitcoins)
Contact [email protected], [email protected]
Detection Win32.Virlock.Gen.4, NSIS/Injector.MK, Generic.Trojan.Malicious.DDS
Symptoms
  • Encrypted most of your files (photos, videos, documents) and adds a particular “.aghz” extension;
  • Can delete Volume Shadow copies to make victim’s attempts to restore data impossible;
  • Adds a list of domains to HOSTS file to block access to certain security-related sites;
  • Installs password-stealing Trojan on the system, like Vidar Stealer or RedLine Stealer;
  • Manages to install a SmokeLoader backdoor;
Fix Tool To remove possible malware infections, scan your PC:


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This text asking payment is for restore files via decryption key:

_readme.txt (STOP/DJVU Ransomware)

_readme.txt (STOP/DJVU Ransomware) – The scary alert demanding from users to pay the ransom to decrypt the encoded files contains these frustrating warnings

Aghz ransomware arrives as a set of processes that are meant to perform different tasks on a victim’s computer. One of the first ones being launched is winupdate.exe, a tricky process that displays a fake Windows update prompt during the attack. This is meant to convince the victim that a sudden system slowdown is caused by a Windows update. However, at the same time, the ransomware runs another process (usually named by four random characters) which starts scanning the system for target files and encrypting them. Next, the ransomware deletes Volume Shadow Copies from the system using the following CMD command:

vssadmin.exe Delete Shadows /All /Quiet

Once deleted, it becomes impossible to restore the previous computer state using System Restore Points. The thing is, ransomware operators are getting rid of any Windows OS-based methods that could help the victim to restore files for free. In addition, the crooks modify the Windows HOSTS file by adding a list of domains to it and mapping them to the localhost IP. As a result, the victim will run into a DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN error when accessing one of the blocked websites.

We noticed that ransomware attempts to block websites that publish various how-to guides for computer users. It is evident that by restricting specific domains, the crooks are trying to prevent the victim from reaching relevant and helpful ransomware-attack-related information online. The virus also saves two text files on the victim’s computer that provide attack-related details – the victim’s public encryption key and personal ID. These two files are called bowsakkdestx.txt and PersonalID.txt.

Aghz ransomware virus saves public encryption key and victim's id in bowsakkdestx.txt file

After all these modifications, the malware doesn’t stop. Variants of STOP/DJVU tend to drop Vidar password-stealing Trojan on compromised systems. This threat has a lengthy list of capabilities, such as:

  • Stealing Steam, Telegram, Skype login / password;
  • Stealing cryptocurrency wallets;
  • Downloading malware to the computer and running it;
  • Stealing browser cookies, saved passwords, browsing history, and more;
  • Viewing and manipulating files on victim’s computer;
  • Allowing the hackers to perform other tasks on the victim’s computer remotely.

The cryptography algorithm used by DJVU/STOP ransomware is AES-256. So, if your files got encrypted with an online decryption key, which is totally distinct. The sad reality is that it is impossible to decrypt the files without the unique key.

In case if Aghz worked in online mode, it is impossible for you to gain access to the AES-256 key. It is stored on a remote server owned by the frauds who distibute the Aghz infection.

For receiving decryption key the payment should be $980. To obtain the payment details, the victims are encouraged by the message to contact the frauds by email ([email protected]).

The message by the ransomware states the following information:

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 protected]

Reserve e-mail address to contact us:

[email protected]

Your personal ID:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Do not pay for Aghz!

Please, try to use the available backups, or Decrypter tool

_readme.txt file also indicates that the computer owners must get in touch with the Aghz representatives during 72 hours starting from the moment of files were encrypted. On the condition of getting in touch within 72 hours, users will be granted a 50% rebate. Thus the ransom amount will be minimized down to $490). However, stay away from paying the ransom!

I certainly advise that you do not contact these crooks and do not pay. The one of the most real working solution to recover the lost data – just using the available backups, or use Decrypter tool from Emsisoft.

The peculiarity of all such viruses apply a similar set of actions for generating the unique decryption key to recover the ciphered data.

Thus, unless the ransomware is still under the stage of development or possesses with some hard-to-track flaws, manually recovering the ciphered data is a thing you can’t perform. The only solution to prevent the loss of your valuable data is to regularly make backups of your crucial files.

Note that even if you do maintain such backups regularly, they ought to be put into a specific location without loitering, not being connected to your main workstation.

For instance, the backup may be kept on the USB flash drive or some alternative external hard drive storage. Optionally, you may refer to the help of online (cloud) information storage.

Needless to mention, when you maintain your backup data on your common device, it may be similarly ciphered as well as other data.

For this reason, locating the backup on your main PC is surely not a wise idea.

How does a virus get into a computer?

Ransomware has a various methods to built into your system.

Aghz infection attack

Aghz ransomware attack following a successful phishing attempt.

The Aghz ransomware can be injected into your PC through common leaks. These are:

  • Hidden installation along with other apps, especially utilities that function as freeware or shareware.
  • Dubious links in spam emails that lead to the virus installer.
  • Online free hosting resources.
  • Using illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) resources to download pirated software.

In some cases, the Aghz virus disguises itself as a legitimate tool, such as messages demanding unwanted software or browser updates. This is how online fraudsters trick you into manually installing the Aghz ransomware, making you an active participant in the process.

Obviously, the bogus update alert won’t explicitly mention that it’s injecting the virus. Instead, it will be concealed within an alert suggesting that you should update Adobe Flash Player or some other questionable program.

Using cracked apps also poses a risk, as it is both illegal and can lead to the injection of severe malware, including the Aghz ransomware.

To summarize, what can you do to avoid the injection of the Aghz ransomware into your device? While there is no 100% guarantee to prevent damage to your PC, here are some tips to help prevent Aghz penetration. Be cautious when installing free software.

Always read what the installers offer in addition to the main free program. Avoid opening suspicious email attachments or files from unknown senders. Ensure that your current security program is always up to date.

The malware doesn’t openly reveal itself and won’t appear in the list of available programs. Instead, it will be masked as a malicious process running silently in the background from the moment you start your computer.

How To Remove Aghz Virus?

In addition to encode a victim’s files, the Aghz infection has also started to install the Vidar Stealer on system to steal account credentials, cryptocurrency wallets, desktop files, and more.

  1. Download Removal Tool.

    You can download GridinSoft Anti-Malware by clicking the button below:

  2. Run the setup file.

    When setup file has finished downloading, double-click on the setup-antimalware-fix.exe file to install GridinSoft Anti-Malware on your PC.

    Run Setup.exe

    An User Account Control asking you about to allow GridinSoft Anti-Malware to make changes to your device. So, you should click “Yes” to continue with the installation.

    GridinSoft Anti-Malware Setup

  3. Press “Install” button.

    GridinSoft Anti-Malware Install

  4. Once installed, Anti-Malware will automatically run.

    GridinSoft Anti-Malware Splash-Screen

  5. Wait for complete.

    GridinSoft Anti-Malware will automatically start scanning your PC for Aghz infections and other malicious programs. This process can take a 20-30 minutes, so I suggest you periodically check on the status of the scan process.

    GridinSoft Anti-Malware Scanning

  6. Click on “Clean Now”.

    When the scan has completed, you will see the list of infections that GridinSoft Anti-Malware has detected. To remove them click on the “Clean Now” button in right corner.

    GridinSoft Anti-Malware Scan Result
  7. Trojan Killer for special instances

    In some certain instances, Aghz ransomware can block the running of setup files of different anti-malware programs. In this situation, you need to utilize the removable drive with a pre-installed antivirus tool.

    There is a really little number of security tools that are able to be set up on the USB drives, and antiviruses that can do so in most cases require to obtain quite an expensive license. For this instance, I can recommend you to use another solution of GridinSoft – Trojan Killer Portable. It has a 14-days cost-free trial mode that offers the entire features of the paid version 3. This term will definitely be 100% enough to wipe malware out.

How To Decrypt .aghz Files?

How to restore big .aghz files?

Try removing .aghz extension on a few BIG files and opening them. Either the Aghz infection read and did not encrypt the file, or it bugged and did not add the filemarker. If your files are very large (2GB+), the latter is most likely. Please, let me know in comments if that will work for you.

The newest extensions released around the end of August 2019 after the criminals made changes. This includes Agpo, Agvv, Tgpo, etc.

As a result of the changes made by the criminals, STOPDecrypter is no longer supported. It has been removed and replaced with the Emsisoft Decryptor for STOP Djvu Ransomware developed by Emsisoft.

You can download free decryption tool here: Decryptor for STOP Djvu.

  1. Download and run decryption tool.

    Start downloading the decryption tool.

    Make sure to launch the decryption utility as an administrator. You need to agree with the license terms that will come up. For this purpose, click on the “Yes” button:

    Emsisoft Decryptor - license terms

    As soon as you accept the license terms, the main decryptor user interface comes up:

    Emsisoft Decryptor - user interface

  2. Select folders for decryption.

    Based on the default settings, the decryptor will automatically populate the available locations in order to decrypt the currently available drives (the connected ones), including the network drives. Extra (optional) locations can be selected with the help of the “Add” button.

    Decryptors normally suggest several options considering the specific malware family. The current possible options are presented in the Options tab and can be activated or deactivated there. You may locate a detailed list of the currently active Options below.

  3. Click on the “Decrypt” button.

    As soon as you add all the desired locations for decryption into the list, click on the “Decrypt” button in order to initiate the decryption procedure.

    Note that the main screen may turn you to a status view, letting you know of the active process and the decryption statistics of your data:

    Emsisoft Decryptor - the decryption statistics

    The decryptor will notify you as soon as the decryption procedure is completed. If you need the report for your personal papers, you can save it by choosing the “Save log” button. Note that it is also possible to copy it directly to your clipboard and to paste it into emails or messages here if you need to do so.

The Emsisoft Decryptor might display different messages after a failed attempt to restore your aghz files:

✓ Error: Unable to decrypt file with ID: [your ID]
There is no corresponding decryption key in the Emsisoft decryptor’s database.
✓ No key for New Variant online ID: [your ID]
Notice: this ID appears to be an online ID, decryption is impossible
Your original files were encrypted with an online key. So no one else has the same encryption/decryption key pair. Recovery of aghz files without paying the criminals is impossible. 🙁
✓ Result: No key for new variant offline ID: [example ID]
This ID appears be an offline ID. Decryption may be possible in the future.
An offline key was used, but files could not be restored (the offline decryption key isn’t available yet). But, receiving this message is good news for you, because it might be possible to restore your aghz files in the future. 🙂
It can take a few weeks or months until the decryption key gets found and uploaded to the decryptor. Please follow updates regarding the decryptable DJVU versions here.
✓ Remote name could not be resolved
It’s an indication of a DNS issue on your PC. Our first recommendation is to reset your HOSTS file back to default.

How to Restore .aghz Files?

In some case Aghz ransomware is not doom for your files…

The Aghz ransomware encryption mechanism is as follows: it encrypts each file byte-by-byte and then creates a copy of the file, leaving the original file untouched (and not overwritten!). Consequently, the file’s location on the physical disk becomes unknown, but the original file remains present on the disk. Although the file system does not list it, the cell or sector that previously stored the file may still retain its contents until overwritten by new data loaded onto the disk after deletion. Thus, there is a possibility to recover your files using specialized software.

I recently had my pc infected by the Aghz virus. It managed to bypass 2 Antivirus software and 2 malware fighters.

Anyway, I realized that it was an online algorithm and it is impossible to retrieve my encrypted files. I thought my backup drive was infected too since I had it plugged in at the time of the virus. Every folder within my backup drive got infected and encrypted. However, despite losing some important files, I managed to retrieve almost 80% of my 2TB storage.

When I started going through the folders, I noticed the ransom note, readme.txt, in every folder. I opened some of the folders and discovered that all files not within a subfolder had been encrypted. However, there was a flaw and a glimmer of hope when I explored the subfolders in other folders. I found that these files had not been encrypted. Every folder in my C and D drives, including subfolders, got encrypted, but the same didn’t happen to the backup drive. The creation of subfolders within a folder ended up saving 80% of my data.

As I mentioned, I believe this to be just a small loophole on a backup drive. Furthermore, I found an additional 10% of my data on another hard drive in a different PC. So, my advice is, if you use a backup drive, make sure to create subfolders. I consider myself lucky, I suppose. However, I was also unlucky that the virus attacked while I was transferring some files from my backup.

Hopefully, this can help some other people in my situation.

Jamie Newland
Some pointers for recovery repair of Aghz files (true for all STOP/DJVU variants):

  • I have seen Aghz variants fail to encrypt deeper nested folders, so that you can check that. You may find those are not encrypted.
  • This ransomware saves encrypted data to a new file, deletes the original. So there’s a slight chance part of that deleted file can be recovered using file recovery software. It’s unlikely the folder structure can be restored, so a free tool like PhotoRec may be as good as any.
  • This ransomware only partially encrypts (about the first 150 KB), so depending on file size and type of data, the not encrypted part may be recoverable.
  • Joep

    Recovering your files with PhotoRec

    PhotoRec is an open-source program, which is originally created for files recovery from damaged disks, or for files recovery in case if they are deleted. However, as time has gone by, this program got the ability to recover the files of 400 different extensions. Hence, it can be used for data recovery after the ransomware attack

    At first, you need to download this app. It is 100% free, but the developer states that there is no guarantee that your files will be recovered. PhotoRec is distributed in a pack with other utility of the same developer – TestDisk. The downloaded archive will have TestDisk name, but don’t worry. PhotoRec files are right inside.

    To open PhotoRec, you need to find and open “qphotorec_win.exe” file. No installation is required – this program has all the files it need inside of the archive, hence, you can fit it on your USB drive, and try to help your friend/parents/anyone who was been attacked by DJVU/STOP ransomware.

    PhotoRec file in the folder

    After the launch, you will see the screen showing you the full list of your disk spaces. However, this information is likely useless, because the required menu is placed a bit higher. Click this bar, then choose the disk which was attacked by ransomware.

    Choose the disc in PhotoRec

    After choosing the disk, you need to choose the destination folder for the recovered files. This menu is located at the lower part of the PhotoRec window. The best desicion is to export them on USB drive or any other type of removable disk.

    Choosing the destination folder of recovery

    Then, you need to specify the file formats. This option is located at the bottom, too. As it was mentioned, PhotoRec can recover the files of about 400 different formats.

    Choose the file format

    Finally, you can start files recovery by pressing the “Search” button. You will see the screen where the results of the scan and recovery are shown.

    Recovery process

    Aghz files recovery guide


    Frequently Asked Questions

    🤔 How can I open “.aghz” files?

    No way. These files are modified by ransomware. The contents of .aghz files are not available until they are decrypted.

    🤔 Aghz files contain important information. How can I decrypt them urgently?

    If your data remained in the .aghz files are very valuable, then most likely you made a backup copy.
    If not, then you can try to restore them through the system function – Restore Point.
    All other methods will require patience.

    🤔 You have advised using GridinSoft Anti-Malware to remove Aghz. Does this mean that the program will delete my encrypted files?

    Of course not. Your encrypted files do not pose a threat to the computer. What happened has already happened.

    You need GridinSoft Anti-Malware to remove active system infections. The virus that encrypted your files is most likely still active and periodically runs a test for the ability to encrypt even more files. Also, these viruses install keyloggers and backdoors for further malicious actions (for example, theft of passwords, credit cards) often.

    🤔 Aghz virus has blocked infected PC: I can’t get the activation code.

    In this situation, you need to prepare the memory stick with a pre-installed Trojan Killer.

    🤔 Decryptor did not decrypt all my files, or not all of them were decrypted. What should I do?

    Have patience. You are infected with the new version of STOP/DJVU ransomware, and decryption keys have not yet been released. Follow the news on our website.

    We will keep you posted on when new Aghz keys or new decryption programs appear.

    🤔 What can I do right now?

    The Aghz ransomware encrypts only the first 150KB of files. So MP3 files are rather large, some media players (Winamp for example) may be able to play the files, but – the first 3-5 seconds (the encrypted portion) will be missing.

    You can try to find a copy of an original file that was encrypted:

    • Files you downloaded from the Internet that were encrypted and you can download again to get the original.
    • Pictures that you shared with family and friends that they can just send back to you.
    • Photos that you uploaded on social media or cloud services like Carbonite, OneDrive, iDrive, Google Drive, etc)
    • Attachments in emails you sent or received and saved.
    • Files on an older computer, flash drive, external drive, camera memory card, or iPhone where you transferred data to the infected computer.

    If the guide doesn’t help you to remove Aghz infection, please download the GridinSoft Anti-Malware that I recommended. Do not forget to share your experience in solving the problem. Please leave a comment here! This can help other victims to understand they are not alone. And together we will find ways to deal with this issue.

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    Brendan Smith
    AGHZ Ransomware — How To Restore & Decrypt Files?

    Name: AGHZ Virus

    Description: The AGHZ Virus belongs to the STOP/DJVU family of ransomware infections. This malicious software encrypts various file types, including videos, photos, and documents, which become identifiable by a distinct aghz extension. As a result, the affected files become inaccessible and unusable. Subsequently, the AGHZ ransomware demands a ransom payment in Bitcoin from its victims, ranging from $490 to $980.

    Operating System: Windows

    Application Category: Virus

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    User Review
    4.18 (17 votes)
    Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)

    References

    1. My files are encrypted by ransomware, what should I do now?
    2. About DJVU (STOP) Ransomware.
    3. Trojan Killer Review: https://howtofix.guide/trojan-killer/

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    About the author

    Brendan Smith

    I'm Brendan Smith, a passionate journalist, researcher, and web content developer. With a keen interest in computer technology and security, I specialize in delivering high-quality content that educates and empowers readers in navigating the digital landscape.

    With a focus on computer technology and security, I am committed to sharing my knowledge and insights to help individuals and organizations protect themselves in the digital age. My expertise in cybersecurity principles, data privacy, and best practices allows me to provide practical tips and advice that readers can implement to enhance their online security.

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