How to remove PicoVirus ransomware and to fix the harm it has done?

September 2, 2020 |

greater than 9 minutes

PicoVirus is a ransomware threat wreaking havoc over the internet. Originally known as Pico Ransomware v1.0, PicoVirus is one of the most lethal and dreaded malware entities capable of damaging your computer system to a point where it’s completely useless. This file-encoding malware sneaks into your computer without your knowledge, locking all your crucial files, like images, documents, and videos, and they can only be decrypted by its creators after paying the specified ransom.

This dangerous crypto virus has been causing a lot of damage and loss to thousands of innocent computer users. That’s why we prepared a post explaining what PicoVirus is, what it does, and how to remove it from your PC.

The PicoVirus ransomware is just one of the dozens of ransomware entities developed by hackers for extortion purposes. Although they are developed by different cybercriminals, they share a common agenda – to encrypt a victim’s data and demand a ransom. The amounts required may vary, and different encryption algorithms are used.

What makes ransomware entities so dangerous is that they use sophisticated algorithms, like RSA, to generate unique decryption keys. This makes it impossible to manually decrypt the affected files.

What Does PicoVirus Do in Windows 10?

The main purpose of the PicoVirus ransomware is to extort money from victims. Hence, it’s designed to scan for specific files that are likely to store valuable information. It takes control of these files and blackmails the victims.

Once PicoVirus infiltrates your computer, it encrypts most of your stored data by using a sophisticated cryptographic algorithm, making your files inaccessible. This nasty threat then renames all of the compromised files and appends the “.pico” extension to each filename. For example, the filename “sample.ppt” is renamed to “sample.ppt.pico”.

When the PicoVirus ransomware first gets into your machine, it modifies your default registry entries and gets activated every time you reboot Windows. It then performs a deep scan of all the folders on your PC, looking for specific data that is included in its target list. Once it identifies such files, it locks them and makes them virtually impossible to restore.

Immediately after encryption, PicoVirus creates a ransom note titled README.txt on your system’s local drives. The note informs you that all your data has been encrypted and in order to unlock it, you need to pay a ransom of $100 in the form of Bitcoin or Ether. The note goes on to threaten you that failure to meet the hackers’ demands will lead to the automatic deletion of all your data. Here’s how the ransom note is presented:

[———————————————————————————]

Pico Ransomware v1.0

Your files was encrypted. To decrypt your files,

follow next steps:

  1. Send $100 to one of these wallets:

BTC: 3QK9umWMV1nrn8nadZ9eGnJ76Bg4jiJLem

ETH: 0xBb171CC7113dbdc532C42D22928f6b6c56fBE242

  1. Send your TXID and your MachineID to mail

E-Mail: de.picocode@gmail.com

MactineID:

[———————————————————————————]

Do not waste your time, files can only be

decrypted by our decode tool.

According to the data recovery instructions in the ransom note, the only way to restore your files is through a decryption key, which is unique to each system and which will be sent to you after paying the ransom. As you can see, the hackers have provided contact details for you to get in touch with them.

The PicoVirus ransomware can also corrupt your backup files, especially if they are stored on your local drives. That’s why it’s crucial to use cloud-based backup systems to keep your data safe.

Should You Pay the Ransom?

While paying the ransom may seem like the most convenient thing to do, we strongly advise against it. The thing is, chances that the hackers will send you the decoding tool are slim, and even if they do, the restored data might still have traces of the infection, which will expose your system to future attacks. In any case, the supposed decryption software may harm your PC badly, making it unusable.

Most victims of PicoVirus end up losing their data even after paying the ransom. Therefore, never entertain the thought of negotiating with cybercriminals as this will make you an easy target.

How Did the PicoVirus Ransomware Get Into Your Computer?

Ransomware can infiltrate victims’ devices through various means. The most common ones are as follows:

  • Clicking on malicious links while surfing the internet. Once clicked, these links open a back channel through which malicious extensions, add-ons or plugins get installed into your browsers without your permission.
  • Spam emails containing malicious code. When such an email is opened, the malicious code injects itself into your system and executes the ransomware file.
  • Software bundling. In most cases, free software is bundled with additional programs that supposedly improve certain features once installed. However, these programs might be malicious and intended to harm your PC.
  • Fake software update tools. You may receive a notification prompting you to install software updates for certain applications. Once you click on these fake notifications, you end up installing malware rather than the actual software updates.
  • Downloading software from unsafe sites, like peer-to-peer sharing networks. These sites might present what appears to be legitimate software to trick users into downloading and installing it. In the end, you infect your system with harmful viruses.
  • Playing online games and visiting adult content sites. They are loaded with fake ads that are usually attached to malware.

How to Remove the PicoVirus Ransomware

You can manually remove the PicoVirus ransomware using the steps below. Although this might be a lengthy process, recovering your data will prevent financial losses and stop those behind the ransomware from exploiting you.

Step 1: Enable Safe Mode with Networking

When you start your computer in Safe Mode, it becomes easier to isolate the ransomware from your system. To enter Safe Mode with Networking, follow the guide below:

  1. On a Windows 10 machine, click “Start” or press the Windows logo and click the “Power” button.
  2. Hold down the “Shift” key and click “Restart”.
  3. On the “Choose an option” screen, click Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings, and then select “Restart”.
  4. Press the F5 key on your keyboard. This will restart your PC in Safe Mode with Networking. You’ll see the words “Safe Mode” at the bottom of your computer screen.

Step 2: Kill PicoVirus-Related Processes in Task Manager

Now, in the safe mode environment, you can kill all processes related to the PicoVirus ransomware. Here is how to do this:

  1. Use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut to bring up “Task Manager”.
  2. Locate all processes related to the PicoVirus ransomware, select them one by one, and click “End task”.

Step 3: Uninstall the PicoVirus Ransomware

You can also locate suspicious programs and features via Control Panel and uninstall them. Here’s how:

  1. Press the Win + R shortcut and type appwiz.cpl into the “Run” box.
  2. Look for any suspicious programs that might be associated with the PicoVirus ransomware, right-click on each of them and select “Uninstall”. Follow the on-screen prompts to completely remove the malicious applications from your computer.

Step 4: Remove the PicoVirus Ransomware from Your Browsers

Remove Suspicious Extensions from Internet Explorer

  1. Launch Internet Explorer and click on its menu, which is located in the top right corner of the browser.
  2. Open “Manage Add-ons” from the menu.
  3. Select “Toolbar and Extensions” from the left pane and click on the “Disable” button to remove all extensions from Internet Explorer.

Reset Internet Explorer:

  1. Run Internet Explorer and bring up its menu.
  2. Choose “Internet Options” and go to the “Advanced” tab.
  3. Click on “Reset”.
  4. Enable the “Delete personal settings” option, and select “Reset”.

Remove Malicious Extensions from Microsoft Edge

  1. Launch Edge and bring up its menu by clicking the three dots in the top right corner of the browser.
  2. Go to “Extensions”, locate any suspicious extensions and remove them.

Reset Microsoft Edge:

  1. Run the Edge browser and click on the “Settings and more” menu icon.
  2. Open Settings > Privacy & Security and select “Choose what to clear”.
  3. Check all options and select “Clear”.

Remove Malicious Extensions from Chrome

  1. Run the Chrome browser and click on the menu icon located in the top right corner of the browser.
  2. Go to More Tools > Extensions, search for any suspicious extensions and remove them from Chrome.

Reset Chrome:

  1. Launch Chrome and bring up its menu.
  2. Go to “Settings”, scroll down and click “Advanced” to display other options.
  3. Open the “Restore settings to their original defaults” option under “Reset and clean up”.
  4. Select “Reset settings”.

Remove Malicious Extensions from Mozilla Firefox

  1. Run Mozilla Firefox and click on its menu located in the top right corner of the browser.
  2. Open “Add-ons” from the menu and go to “Extensions”.
  3. Locate any suspicious extensions that might be associated with the PicoVirus ransomware and remove them.

Reset Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox and bring up its menu.
  2. Select “Help” and click on “Troubleshooting Information”.
  3. Choose the “Refresh Firefox” option and select “Refresh Firefox”.

Step 5: Scan Your System Using an Anti-Malware Tool

Uninstalling or deleting the PicoVirus ransomware from your machine or browsers doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve removed all traces of it. You need to go a step further and use an aggressive malware removal tool like Auslogics Anti-Malware. This program carries out a deep scan of your folders, files, and applications to detect any malicious entities that could be running without your knowledge.

Auslogics Anti-Malware is designed to catch malware that your ordinary antivirus program might fail to detect. The security tool scans, among other areas, registry entries, auto-start items, browser extensions, system memory, and anything you download from the internet. The tool is capable of stopping malware from sneaking into your PC and, as a result, can prevent damage.

Auslogics Anti-Malware provides real-time protection, which means that it’s actively monitoring your PC whenever it is running.

Step 6: Deleting the PicoVirus Ransomware Using System Restore

If for any reason you’re not able to start your PC in Safe Mode with Networking, try restoring your system to a state before the malware infection. The System Restore feature makes the process easy, and here’s the step-by-step guide:

  1. Press the “Power” button to turn on your PC. Immediately after your PC’s brand logo appears, hold down the “Power” button to turn off the computer.
  2. Repeat step 1 twice and then allow your device to fully restart at the third attempt. This operation takes you to the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE).
  3. Select “See advanced repair options”.
  4. From the “Choose an option” screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > System Restore.
  5. On the “System Restore” screen, select your account and enter your user credentials. Click “Continue” to open the “System Restore” window.
  6. Click “Next” to display a list of restore points. If it’s your first time using System Restore, select the “Choose a different restore point” option and click “Next”.
  7. Now select a relevant restore point and click “Next”. It’s important that you remember when your PC was infected by the PicoVirus ransomware as this could help you choose the correct restore point.
  8. Click “Finish” and select “Yes” to proceed.
  9. Allow the process to run uninterrupted. Once your system has been restored successfully, click “Restart”.

System Restore leaves your files intact but removes all installed programs and applications. This should remove the PicoVirus ransomware from your Windows device. After successfully restoring your system, you can restore each file individually. To do this, right-click the needed file, open its “Properties”, go to the “Previous Versions” tab, and select “Restore”. Click “OK” to save the changes.

How to Stay Protected from PicoVirus

In most cases, computers are infected due to careless behavior or a lack of knowledge on the user’s end. However, this can also happen unintentionally because of the stealth nature of some types of computer malware.

All in all, there are a few measures that you can take to stay protected from future malware attacks:

  • Be extra cautious when surfing the internet and be on the lookout for any suspicious links. Likewise, avoid clicking on pop-up ads and alerts since most of them are fake and malicious.
  • Avoid downloading software or files from unreliable sources. Third-party downloaders usually include adware, spyware or other types of malware in their apps or programs. Genuine software can only be downloaded from official sources.
  • Avoid clicking on fake software update notifications. The best way to avoid this is by visiting the official developers’ websites and getting updates from there. Keeping all your programs and applications updated ensures that they are not vulnerable to malware attacks.
  • Install a powerful anti-malware program to protect your system and data from malware infections. Remember to always keep your security tool updated to guarantee the safety of your data.
  • When installing software, watch each step carefully and uncheck any unwanted programs in the “Custom” or “Advanced” settings.
  • Don’t open email attachments whose sources you don’t trust. If you detect any suspicious emails, especially from an unrecognized email address, delete them.
  • Keep Windows updated.
  • Keep your browsers updated to block any exploitation attempts.
  • Turn on your Windows Firewall to protect your system from malware.
  • Back up your data to an external storage device or a cloud server.

For suggestions, queries or additional information about the PicoVirus ransomware, please leave a comment below.

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