Shade ransomware

Shade ransomware service shut down: 750,000 unique decryption keys revealed on GitHub

Shade virus

Shade virus


Shade ransomware, often dubbed as Troldesh, is a file-encrypting virus that keeps infecting regular PC users, companies, and businesses via spam email campaigns since 2014. At the time being, there are more than 15 diverse versions, which uses diverse file extensions, such as .7h9r, .xtbl, .ytbl and .da_vinci_code, no_more_ransom, .better_call_saul, .heisenberg, or .windows10, but share similar encryption methods, distribution strategies, and demands[1]

Various researches revealed that Shade ransomware proliferates in Russia and Russian speaking countries. If a potential victim opens an infected email attachment, he or she grants ransomware permission to enter the system and lock files using AES-256 encryption algorithm. Aside from data locking, Shade Troldesh ransomware drops cryptocurrency miners on the system and actively participates in aggressive advertising – traffic boosting services. 

Update 2020: At the end of April 2020 cybersecurity researchers reported that Shade ransomware service has been shut down by its developers. Criminals revealed more than 750,000 unique decryption keys that have been collected within more than five years. The entry contains an apology of the criminals and full guidance on how to decrypt files encrypted by Shade ransomware. 

Although decryption keys are now open to everyone, the process requires IT knowledge and may be difficult to perform. Therefore, we highly recommend waiting until reputable security vendors release an official Shade decryption software. Although there is a decryption tool developed by Europol, the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit, Intel, and Kaspersky available at NoMoreRansom website, it cannot retrieve files encrypted by the latest Shade ransomware variants. 

Name Shade ransomware
Type  Cryptovirus
Ransom note  README1.txt or README10.txt
File extensions 
  • xtbl
  • ytbl
  • breaking_bad
  • heisenberg
  • better_call_saul
  • los_pollos
  • da_vinci_code
  • magic_software_syndicate
  • windows10
  • windows8
  • no_more_ransom
  • tyson
  • crypted000007
  • crypted000078
  • rsa3072
  • decrypt_it
  • dexter
  • miami_california
Encryption method  This ransomware strain uses a unique AES-256 encryption cipher to lock up files and documents that are founded on the infected computer system
Active since  The first activity by Shade ransomware has been spotted in 2014 and developers have made it more advance and complex since then
Distribution Spam email campaigns are the most popular method used for Shade ransomware distribution. Nevertheless, this malware ranks as the top 1 virus that is distributed via questionable email messages
Elimination  Use trustworthy antivirus to remove Shade virus. Note that manual elimination is not a possibility for this case as the ransomware is too hard to eliminate on your own 
Repair If the malware has left some system files damaged on your computer, you can give Reimage Reimage Cleaner Intego software a try as this tool might help you to recover some harmed objects
Decryption software If this ransomware virus has affected your data files, you can recover them without paying the ransom. For this purpose, download the decryption tool directly from here, or look it up on this web page
ACTIVITY Shade ransomware service has been shut down at the end of 2019. Upon closure, developers of the virus revealed over 750,000 unique decryption keys that are available at GitHub[2] 

This threat exclusively focuses on infecting the European region, specifically, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, and Russia. Nevertheless, Russia tops as the region experiencing the biggest losses due to Shade ransomware attacks. According to the latest information, the virus started a Russian-oriented spam email campaign, which took the start in October 2018. ESET team reported[3] that activity stopped during the Holidays, but has renewed between January 1st and 24th. Research has disclosed that 52% of malicious email attachments created by the Shade team went to Russian addressees.  The campaign focused on phishing emails with subject lines impersonating legitimate organizations like B&N Bank.

Throughout its existence, the ransomware has managed to earn millions of dollars. Cybercriminals are constantly improving their malicious creations, so there is no doubt that Shade ransomware will attempt to invade as many computers as they can.

The virus locks images, video material, documents, music files, and other data it finds on the computer using AES-256[4] encryption method. If this menace has fallen you, find out how to remove Shade virus. Reimage Reimage Cleaner Intego might also be a helpful utility of you try using it for repairing some system components that have been damaged by the malware.

After the ransomware encrypts all the valuable files, it automatically changes the desktop’s background and opens up README.txt file which informs you of the encrypted files. The ransom message is provided in two languages – Russian and English. Moreover, the virus also attaches different extensions to each of the encrypted files.

Once it marks target files, it displays this ransom note telling that paying the ransom is crucial to recovering the files:

All the important files on your disks were encrypted.
To decrypt the files you should send the following code:
to the e-mail addresses: [email protected] or [email protected].
All the attempts of decrypting the information by yourself will result only in irrevocable loss of your data.

Shade uses two methods to deliver the ransom: via email address and Tor server. In the latter case, users are required to access the anonymous browser and then follow the instructions to transfer the money. Even if the data is of vital importance, do not pay the money as it does not guarantee that Shade malware decryption service will help you retrieve your blocked information.

For data recovery, use a free decryption tool that has been already created. You can find its download link at the end of this article besides expert[5] approved tips. All in all, you need to initiate Shade virus removal as soon as possible and then start decrypting your files. 

Another interesting fact about Shade ransomware is that it has more than one purpose. Of course, it operates as a typical file-encrypting virus and demands a ransom afterward. However, experts have discovered that this malware is also used to generate and increase online traffic for receiving more income from advertising campaigns. This way the developers of Shade ransomware can collect more revenue than using the malware for file locking only.

Shade ransomware virus spam campaign
Shade ransomware targeted Russian-speakers with spam email campaign.

Shade ransomware virus spam campaign
Shade ransomware targeted Russian-speakers with spam email campaign.

2019 Update

The newest information regarding Shade ransomware virus surfaced at the end of January. Attackers used phishing campaigns to spread their malware around, mainly targeting Russians. The previously known crypto-malware renewed attacks and used malicious JavaScript attachments.

ESET reported that the campaign that was discovered back in October 2018 has been removed after the Holidays, during which Shade virus remains still. According to Juraj Janosik, this second attack is more intense and doubled in volume. The activity with infected spam email attachments was discovered and revealed that 52% o those attachments were sent to Russian email addresses and the rest of them targeted mainly Ukraine, France, Germany, Japan. 

Subject lines on these emails state about order details, updates, or payment details, and senders impersonate legitimate organizations, for example, Russian B&N Bank or retailer Magnit. Emails even impersonate specific managers or company employees. 

Emails contain file attachments like ZIP archives or documents. The particular campaign included malicious JavaScript hidden in a ZIP archive named or The minute user opens the file ransomware payload is launched on the device. As Janosik reported, a direct downloader immediately launched Shade virus and performs encryption on users’ files.

Researcher stated:

Once extracted and launched, the JavaScript file downloads a malicious loader, detected by ESET products as Win32/Injector. The malicious loader decrypts and launches the final payload – the Shade ransomware. Our telemetry data shows hundreds of such URLs, all ending with the string “ssj.jpg”, hosting the malicious loader file.

Troldesh (Shade) ransomware ranks as the top 1 malware being delivered through email spam

Regarding news reports released at the end of 2019, Shade ransomware has become the most popular malware that is distributed via email spam campaigns. Group-IB’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-GIB) has testes numerous spam and questionable email messages that were holding malware and the most common computer parasite in the first half of 2019 was spotted to be Shade (Troldesh) virus.

The other two places in the most popular three go to RTM and Pony Formgrabber malware, however, they still take a small percentage combining to Shade ransomware that holds 57% of popularity via email spam distribution. Nevertheless, cybersecurity researchers have found out that ransomware infections have become more popular when it comes to monetary benefits that are being collected by malicious actors as the top goal.

Shade ransomware itself has been upgraded by multiple more advanced features that allow the crooks to spread the virus more effectively and receive much more income than they were able too since the malware’s first release. Even though this malicious infection has been active for a few yours since now and can be even purchased for further distribution on various black markets, victims should not be that afraid of it as there are decryption tools already available for files and documents that get encrypted with Shade ransomware.

At the end of our article, you will find a link to the official decryption software that has been provided by Softpedia specialists. However, the other two decryption tools released by Kaspersky and Intel Security experts have also been posted online. You can find the software on The No More Ransom website while continuing with the “decryption tools” section and searching for your needed object.[6]

Shade ransomware collects users’ personal information

Cybercriminals have upgraded Shade virus, and now this malware installs a remote administration tool (RAT) upon its arrival on the victim’s computer. First of all, the ransomware checks the computer and scans it to find a particular type of documents, which indicates that the computer is used by accounting departments only in Russian-speaking organizations.

In case it detects these documents, it does not launch the ransomware and installs Teamspy Trojan instead. This Trojan is also known as SpY-aGENT, TVRAT, or TVSPY. Trojan then drops a modified version of TeamViewer, 7ZIP tool, NirCmd utility as well as TeamViewer VPN driver and RDP Wrapper Library on the computer system. With the help of this set of tools, cybercriminals manage to modify the operating system’s settings and control the PC system remotely.

Criminals spy on computer users in order to decide how much money to ask from him in exchange for a decryption key; besides, they modify the ransom note for individual victims as soon as they sort out what threats to use against particular computer users. This is a dangerous technique and users must take precautions to protect their computers from Shade attacks!

Shade ransomware virus uses red alert
The ransom note used by Shade ransomware is written in red.

Shade ransomware virus uses red alert
The ransom note used by Shade ransomware is written in red.

Malware distribution techniques include safe-looking emails

Ransomware infection may occur after downloading the infected attachment via malicious email messages. They contain a .zip file which includes an infected file, for example, PAYMENT.vbs, PAYCHECK.vbs, PENALTY.vbs. Once it is opened, it automatically releases the malicious payload and downloads ransomware to your computer. Then the virus spreading all over the disks and encrypts your files.

Also, malware may infect your computer via a Trojan, alternatively known as an exploit kit. It is especially detested for its ability to disguise as a legitimate file. In order to detect it, it is of utmost importance to install a reputable anti-spyware program, which will track down the malware.

As the most common ransomware distribution technique is spam email campaigns, malicious actors make spam emails looking more legitimate while impersonating known organizations or even government institutions, banks, popular companies. You should note that this is a common technique and delete suspicious emails more frequently. 

Shade virus can be stopped

Europol, the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit, Intel, and Kaspersky have joined forces to terminate the Shade virus. These companies entered the previously launched project “No More Ransom.” The cooperation presented the long-awaited results for the international community – a decryption tool. You can also find it below in this article. After raiding multiple command and control servers, the cyber allied forces were able to locate the one distributing Shade Trojan.

What is more, they deliver good news for its victims, a free decryption tool now can be found on the Internet. This joint operation has deprived the developers of the ransomware of acquiring an additional 1,45 million USD. The project attracted more participants as the virtual community, particularly businesses and thousands of ordinary users, have been continuously attacked by file-encrypting malware.

The companies also expect Microsoft to join in the near future. Its cooperation would be highly beneficial taking into account that the absolute majority of ransomware viruses are created for Windows OS systems.

Update: For an unknown reason, Shade developers decided to stop the ransomware service and shut it down in 2019. The cyber community received information on such a decision in April 2020 only when criminals created a repository on GitHub with more than 750,000 unique master keys for data decryption and full instructions on how to enable the given keys. 

Shade ransomware shuts down
Shade ransomware is no longer active. Its developers closed the service at the end of 2019 and revealed unique decryption keys

Shade ransomware shuts down
Shade ransomware is no longer active. Its developers closed the service at the end of 2019 and revealed unique decryption keys

According to the developers, the keys provided will unlock files encrypted with .xtbl, .ytbl, .breaking_bad, .heisenberg, .better_call_saul, .los_pollos, .da_vinci_code, .magic_software_syndicate, .windows10, .windows8, .no_more_ransom, .Tyson, .crypted000007, .crypted000078, .rsa3072, .decrypt_it, .dexter, and .miami_california file extensions. 

Although everyone can try to decrypt files encrypted by Shade, the process requires advanced IT skills. Nevertheless, reputable security vendors are already working on Shade decryptor’s updates. 

Shade virus removal and data recovery requires professional help

If you have just discovered .7h9r, .xtbl, .ytbl, .da_vinci_code or .no_more_ransom extensions added to your important files, it means that your computer is probably infected with Shade virus. As you may have already understood, this is a dangerous virus that was created for the only reason – make its victims pay the ransom. 

There is a way to fix everything without supporting the hijackers. First of all, you need to install a reputable anti-spyware program to remove Shade ransomware permanently. After the elimination process, you should either restore your encrypted files from backup or try this program: Shade decryption tool.

Nevertheless, Shade ransomware virus might have made a negative impact on some of your system objects and software. If you have found some damaged components, you can try fixing them with repair software such as Reimage Reimage Cleaner Intego, SpyHunter 5Combo Cleaner, or Malwarebytes.

If you want to prevent such loss in the future, make sure to back up your files or store the important data in different locations, i.e., data storage domains. Storing files online, e.g., Google Drive or OneDrive, might not be secure because they are linked to the PC. The information kept online is always exposed to a greater risk than domestic data storing devices.

If the virus is shutting down security programs and prevents Shade ransomware removal, take a look at the instructions below to recover the access and continue with the virus extermination.

Reimage Intego has a free limited scanner. Reimage Intego offers more through scan when you purchase its full version. When free scanner detects issues, you can fix them using free manual repairs or you can decide to purchase the full version in order to fix them automatically.

This entry was posted on 2020-04-30 at 09:00 and is filed under Ransomware, Viruses.