MAO Virus 🔐 (.MAO Files) — How to Remove?

Written by Brendan Smith
The Mao virus falls under the Dharma ransomware family. A harmful program of such sort encrypts all user’s data on the computer (images, text files, excel sheets, audio files, videos, etc) and adds its own extension to every file, leaving the info.txt text files in each folder with the encrypted files.
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Mao virus: what is known so far?

☝️ A strictly correct denomination for the Mao would be “a Dharma family ransomware-type malicious agent”.

The scheme of renaming is this: id-xxxxx.[contact_email].mao. During the encryption, a file named, for instance, “report.docx” will be renamed to “report.docx.id-9ECFA84E.[[email protected]].mao”.

In every folder that contains the encoded files, a info.txt text document will appear. It is a ransom money note. It contains information on the ways of paying the ransom and some other remarks. The ransom note usually contains a description of how to buy the decryption tool from the racketeers. You can get this decrypting software after contacting [email protected] via email. That is pretty much the scheme of the crime.

Mao outline:
Name Mao Virus
Ransomware family1 Dharma ransomware
Extension .mao
Ransomware note info.txt
Contact [email protected]
Detection Crytex.Virus.FileInfector.DDS, Win32/Filecoder.OLC, Malware-Cryptor.InstallCore.5
Symptoms Your files (photos, videos, documents) get a .mao extension and you can’t open them.
Fix Tool See If Your System Has Been Affected by Mao virus

The info.txt document coming in package with the Mao malware provides the following frustrating information:

all your data has been locked us
You want to return?
write email [email protected] or [email protected]

In the screenshot below, you can see what a folder with files encrypted by the Mao looks like. Each filename has the “.mao” extension appended to it.

Mao Virus - encrypted .mao files

An example of encrypted .mao files.

How did my computer get infected with Mao ransomware?

There are many possible ways of ransomware injection.

Nowadays, there are three most popular methods for criminals to have ransomware working in your system. These are email spam, Trojan injection and peer networks.

If you open your mailbox and see letters that look like familiar notifications from utility services companies, postal agencies like FedEx, web-access providers, and whatnot, but whose mailer is unknown to you, beware of opening those letters. They are very likely to have a malicious item attached to them. Therefore, it is even more dangerous to download any attachments that come with emails like these.

Another option for ransom hunters is a Trojan virus model2. A Trojan is a program that gets into your machine pretending to be something different. Imagine, you download an installer for some program you need or an update for some program. However, what is unpacked turns out to be a harmful program that encodes your data. Since the update wizard can have any name and any icon, you have to make sure that you can trust the resource of the things you’re downloading. The best thing is to use the software developers’ official websites.

As for the peer-to-peer file transfer protocols like torrent trackers or eMule, the danger is that they are even more trust-based than the rest of the Web. You can never know what you download until you get it. Our suggestion is that you use trustworthy resources. Also, it is reasonable to scan the directory containing the downloaded items with the antivirus as soon as the downloading is done.

How to remove the Mao virus?

It is crucial to note that besides encrypting your files, the Mao virus will most likely install the Azorult Spyware on your computer to seize your credentials to different accounts (including cryptocurrency wallets). The mentioned spyware3 can derive your credentials from your browser’s auto-filling data.

Often tamperers would decrypt some of your files so you know that they indeed have the decryption program. Since Mao virus is a relatively recent ransomware, safety measures designers have not yet found a way to undo its work. However, the decoding instruments are frequently updated, so the solution may soon be available.

Understandably, if the hackers succeed in encrypting someone’s essential data, the hopeless person will probably comply with their demands. However, paying a ransom does not necessarily mean that you’re getting your blocked information back. It is still dangerous. After receiving the ransom, the racketeers may send a wrong decryption key to the injured party. There were reports of malefactors just vanishing after getting the money without even bothering to reply.

The best solution against ransomware is to have a system restore point or the copies of your essential files in the cloud drive or at least on an external disk. Surely, that might be insufficient. The most crucial thing could be that one you were working upon when it all happened. Nevertheless, it is something. It is also wise to scan your PC for viruses with the antivirus program after the system is rolled back.

There are other ransomware products, besides Mao, that work similarly. For instance, Maos, Isal, Znto, and some others. The two main differences between them and the Mao are the ransom amount and the method of encryption. The rest is the same: files become encrypted, their extensions changed, ransom notes emerge in each directory containing encrypted files.

Some fortunate users were able to decrypt the arrested files with the aid of the free software provided by anti-malware specialists. Sometimes the hackers accidentally send the decoding code to the wronged in the ransom readme. Such an epic fail allows the injured part to restore the files. But of course, one should never expect such a chance. Make no mistake, ransomware is a criminals’ technology to pull the money out of their victims.

How сan I avert ransomware infection?

Mao ransomware doesn’t have a superpower, so as any similar malware.

You can defend your PC from its injection taking several easy steps:

  • Ignore any letters from unknown mailboxes with strange addresses, or with content that has nothing to do with something you are expecting (can you win in a lottery without even taking part in it?). If the email subject is more or less something you are waiting for, scrutinize all elements of the dubious letter with caution. A hoax email will surely contain a mistake.
  • Do not use cracked or unknown programs. Trojans are often distributed as a part of cracked products, possibly as a “patch” which prevents the license check. Understandably, dubious programs are very hard to distinguish from reliable software, as trojans may also have the functionality you need. Try searching for information about this program on the anti-malware forums, but the best solution is not to use such software.
  • And to be sure about the safety of the objects you downloaded, check them with GridinSoft Anti-Malware. This program will be a perfect armor for your PC.
Reasons why I would recommend GridinSoft4

There is no better way to recognize, remove and prevent ransomware than to use an anti-malware software from GridinSoft5.

Download Removal Tool.

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

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 system.

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

Press “Install” button.

GridinSoft Anti-Malware Install

Once installed, Anti-Malware will automatically run.

GridinSoft Anti-Malware Splash-Screen

Wait for the Anti-Malware scan to complete.

GridinSoft Anti-Malware will automatically start scanning your computer for Mao 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

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

FAQ

🤔 Are the “.mao” files accessible?

Negative. That is why ransomware is so frustrating. Until you decode the “.mao” files you will not be able to access them.

🤔 I really need to decrypt those “.mao” files ASAP. How can I do that?

It’s good if you have fаr-sightedly saved copies of these important files elsewhere. Otherwise, you might try to employ System Restore. The only question is whether you have saved any Restore Points that would be helpful now. There are other ways to beat ransomware, but they take time.

🤔 You have advised using GridinSoft Anti-Malware to get rid of the Mao virus. Does it mean that all my files, currently encrypted, will be removed too?

Of course not. Unlike the ransomware program itself, the encrypted files do not jeopardize your system.

GridinSoft Anti-Malware only deals with real threats. The malware that has infected your device is most likely still active and it scans your system periodically to encrypt any new files you might create on your PC after the attack. As it has been mentioned above, the Mao ransomware does not come alone. It installs backdoors and keyloggers that can take your account passwords by trespass and provide criminals with easy access to your system after some time.

🤔 What should I do if the Mao virus has blocked my computer and I can’t get the activation key.

If that happened, you need to have a flash memory drive with a previously installed Trojan Killer. Use Safe Mode to perform the cleaning. The point is that the ransomware starts automatically as the system boots and encodes any new files created or brought into your computer. To block this process – use Safe Mode, which allows only the essential applications to run automatically. Consider reading our manual on booting Windows in Safe Mode.

🤔 What can I do right now?

Many of the blocked files might still be within your reach

  • If you exchanged your critical files via email, you could still download them from your online mail server.
  • You may have shared images or videos with your friends or relatives. Just ask them to post those images back to you.
  • If you have initially got any of your files from the Web, you can try doing it again.
  • Your messengers, social media pages, and cloud disks might have all those files as well.
  • It might be that you still have the needed files on your old computer, a laptop, cellphone, flash memory, etc.

USEFUL TIP: You can employ data recovery programs6 to get your lost data back since ransomware arrests the copies of your files, removing the original ones. In the video below, you can see how to recover your files with PhotoRec, but remember: you can do it only after you eradicate the virus with an antivirus program.

Also, you can contact the following governmental fraud and scam sites to report this attack:

To report the attack, you can contact local executive boards. For instance, if you live in USA, you can have a talk with FBI Local field office, IC3 or Secret Service.

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Brendan Smith
How to Remove MAO Ransomware & Recover PC

Name: MAO Virus

Description: MAO Virus is a ransomware-type infections. This virus encrypts important personal files (video, photos, documents). The encrypted files can be tracked by a specific .mao extension. So, you can't use them at all.

Operating System: Windows

Application Category: Virus

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References

  1. My files are encrypted by ransomware, what should I do now?
  2. You can read more on Trojans, their use and types in the Trojan-dedicated section of GridinSoft official website.
  3. You can read more on spyware variants and nature in the respective section of GridinSoft official website.
  4. GridinSoft Anti-Malware Review from HowToFix site: https://howtofix.guide/gridinsoft-anti-malware/
  5. More information about GridinSoft products: https://gridinsoft.com/products
  6. Here’s the list of Best Data Recovery Software Of 2023.

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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