The STOP ransomware has been detected in new active attack campaigns by security researchers. This new variant appears to be set to use the extension .Merl for files it encrypts. That’s why the new variant is dubbed .Merl file virus. The decryption key price varies in price and is usually given in Bitcoin. It depends on the time that has passed before the victim contacts hackers. Keep reading this Merl ransomware removal guide to learn how to remove malicious files completely from the infected PC and potentially recover .Merl files.
Special Offer for Users Infected by Merl
Infection Flow of Merl Virus Files
Once the Merl ransomware is installed on the computer it creates randomly named executable files in the %AppData% or %LocalAppData% folders. Infection with the newest STOP ransomware variant – Merl virus starts the moment its payload is executed on the targeted host. The payload controls all malicious system modifications that aim to ensure the stable presence of Merl ransomware on the computer. The Merl file virus can read, update and delete some system files or create new malicious files in order to complete the infection.
Once Merl file virus establishes all its files and objects on the infected host it initiates a scan of all drives and commonly encrypts all files that belong to one of the following types:
.001, .002, .003, .004, .005, .006, .007, .008, .009, .010, .011, .123, .1cd, .3dm, .3ds, .3fr, .3g2, .3gp, .3pr, .602, .7z, .7zip, .ARC, .CSV, .DOC, .DOT, .MYD, .MYI, .NEF, .PAQ, .PPT, .RTF, .SQLITE3, .SQLITEDB, .XLS, .aac, .ab4, .accdb, .accde, .accdr, .accdt, .ach, .acr, .act, .adb, .adp, .ads, .aes, .agdl, .ai, .aiff, .ait, .al, .aoi, .apj, .apk, .arw, .asc, .asf, .asm, .asp, .aspx, .asset, .asx, .avi, .awg, .back, .backup, .backupdb, .bak, .bank, .bat, .bay, .bdb, .bgt, .bik, .bin, .bkp, .blend, .bmp, .bpw, .brd, .bsa, .cdf, .cdr, .cdr3, .cdr4, .cdr5, .cdr6, .cdrw, .cdx, .ce1, .ce2, .cer, .cfg, .cgm, .cib, .class, .cls, .cmd, .cmt, .config, .contact, .cpi, .cpp, .cr2, .craw, .crt, .crw, .cs, .csh, .csl, .csr, .css, .csv, .d3dbsp, .dac, .das, .dat, .db, .db3, .db_journal, .dbf, .dbx, .dc2, .dch, .dcr, .dcs, .ddd, .ddoc, .ddrw, .dds, .der, .des, .design, .dgc, .dif, .dip, .dit, .djv, .djvu, .dng, .doc, .docb, .docm, .docx, .dot, .dotm, .dotx, .drf, .drw, .dtd, .dwg, .dxb, .dxf, .dxg, .edb, .eml, .eps, .erbsql, .erf, .exf, .fdb, .ffd, .fff, .fh, .fhd, .fla, .flac, .flf, .flv, .flvv, .forge, .fpx, .frm, .fxg, .gif, .gpg, .gray, .grey, .groups, .gry, .gz, .hbk, .hdd, .hpp, .html, .hwp, .ibank, .ibd, .ibz, .idx, .iif, .iiq, .incpas, .indd, .iwi, .jar, .java, .jnt, .jpe, .jpeg, .jpg, .js, .kc2, .kdbx, .kdc, .key, .kpdx, .kwm, .laccdb, .lay, .lay6, .lbf, .ldf, .lit, .litemod, .litesql, .log, .ltx, .lua, .m2ts, .m3u, .m4a, .m4p, .m4u, .m4v, .mapimail, .max, .mbx, .md, .mdb, .mdc, .mdf, .mef, .mfw, .mid, .mkv, .mlb, .mml, .mmw, .mny, .moneywell, .mos, .mov, .mp3, .mp4, .mpeg, .mpg, .mrw, .ms11, .msg, .myd, .n64, .nd, .ndd, .ndf, .nef, .nk2, .nop, .nrw, .ns2, .ns3, .ns4, .nsd, .nsf, .nsg, .nsh, .nvram, .nwb, .nx2, .nxl, .nyf, .oab, .obj, .odb, .odc, .odf, .odg, .odm, .odp, .ods, .odt, .ogg, .oil, .onetoc2, .orf, .ost, .otg, .oth, .otp, .ots, .ott, .p12, .p7b, .p7c, .pab, .pages, .pas, .pat, .pcd, .pct, .pdb, .pdd, .pdf, .pef, .pem, .pfx, .php, .pif, .pl, .plc, .plus_muhd, .png, .pot, .potm, .potx, .ppam, .pps, .ppsm, .ppsx, .ppt, .pptm, .pptx, .prf, .ps, .psafe3, .psd, .pspimage, .pst, .ptx, .pwm, .py, .qba, .qbb, .qbm, .qbr, .qbw, .qbx, .qby, .qcow, .qcow2, .qed, .r3d, .raf, .rar, .rat, .raw, .rb, .rdb, .re4, .rm, .rtf, .rvt, .rw2, .rwl, .rwz, .s3db, .safe, .sas7bdat, .sav, .save, .say, .sch, .sd0, .sda, .sdf, .sh, .sldm, .sldx, .slk, .sql, .sqlite, .sqlite3, .sqlitedb, .sr2, .srf, .srt, .srw, .st4, .st5, .st6, .st7, .st8, .stc, .std, .sti, .stm, .stw, .stx, .svg, .swf, .sxc, .sxd, .sxg, .sxi, .sxm, .sxw, .tar, .tar.bz2, .tbk, .tex, .tga, .tgz, .thm, .tif, .tiff, .tlg, .txt, .uop, .uot, .upk, .vb, .vbox, .vbs, .vdi, .vhd, .vhdx, .vmdk, .vmsd, .vmx, .vmxf, .vob, .wab, .wad, .wallet, .wav, .wb2, .wk1, .wks, .wma, .wmv, .wpd, .wps, .x11, .x3f, .xis, .xla, .xlam, .xlc, .xlk, .xlm, .xlr, .xls, .xlsb, .xlsm, .xlsx, .xlt, .xltm, .xltx, .xlw, .xml, .ycbcra, .yuv, .zip
All target files are modified via the strong cipher algorithm AES. The encryption process transforms the original code of target files by making them completely unworkable until the decryption key is applied to the decryptor. Then Merl ransomware renames encrypted files and marks them with the .Merl file extension.
The Merl virus also loads Windows Registry editor to create new registry values under keys like Run and RunOnce that will help the automatic execution of its payload each time the Windows OS starts. Furthermore, some values under the same keys may be deleted or replaced so that the ransomware can generate its ransom note automatically on the screen. Before this Merl files virus drops the file that contains its ransom message.
The Merl ransomware is designed to localize the infected host so it can present the ransom message in the appropriate language. The message provides two addresses that enable victims to contact hackers for further details about the ransom amount and its payment. The STOP Merl ransomware malicious operators attempt to blackmail their victims into paying a ransom fee. They demand the amount in Bitcoins. Supposedly, the payment process should enable infected users to restore their .Merl files.
However, there is no guarantee that they will send a working decryption tool even after an eventual successful payment. If you want to regain the security of your PC and retrieve .Merl files, check the removal guide below and follow the steps.
Merl Ransomware Distribution
The Merl ransomware is distributed mainly via spam email messages that follow a typical pattern of sending legitimate alike blank emails with malicious attachments. The Merl virus infected emails contain malicious files archived in .7z format that generally are presented as “Status of invoice”. The email may also be presented as information of package delivery failure or notifications of shipment status. These techniques aim to provoke curiosity and interaction with the attached file. Spreading ransomware through archives is a staple of this type of malware. The attached file contains malicious VBS file that once opened triggers the Merl ransomware infection. Other distribution techniques may be browser hijackers, malicious ads and redirects and dangerous software installation packages downloaded from untrusted sites.
Please note that paying the requested ransom fee to cybercriminals does not really solve your problem with Merl cryptovirus. In fact, you only encourage hackers to continue spreading ransomware of this kind. Instead, you must remove the threat immediately, and only then look for optional ways to recover your data.
WARNING! Manual removal of Merl ransomware requires being familiar with system files and registries. Removing important data accidentally can lead to permanent system damage. If you don’t feel comfortable with manual instructions, download a powerful anti-malware tool that will scan your system for malware and clean it safely for you.
Merl Ransomware Virus – Manual Removal Steps
Start the PC in Safe Mode with Network
This will isolate all files and objects created by the ransomware so they will be removed efficiently. The steps below are applicable to all Windows versions.
1. Hit the WIN Key + R
2. A Run window will appear. In it, write msconfig and then press Enter
3. A Configuration box shall appear. In it Choose the tab named Boot
4. Mark Safe Boot option and then go to Network under it to tick it too
5. Apply -> OK
Show Hidden Files
Some ransomware threats are designed to hide their malicious files in the Windows so all files stored on the system should be visible.
1. Open My Computer/This PC
2. Windows 7
- – Click on Organize button
– Select Folder and search options
– Select the View tab
– Go under Hidden files and folders and mark Show hidden files and folders option
3. Windows 8/ 10
- – Open View tab
– Mark Hidden items option
4. Click Apply and then OK button
Enter Windows Task Manager and Stop Malicious Processes
1. Hit the following key combination: CTRL+SHIFT+ESC
2. Get over to Processes
3. When you find suspicious process Merlt click on it and select Open File Location
4. Go back to Task Manager and end the malicious process. Merlt click on it again and choose End Process
5. Next, you should go folder where the malicious file is located and delete it
Repair Windows Registry
1. Again type simultaneously the WIN Key + R key combination
2. In the box, write regedit and hit Enter
3. Type the CTRL+ F and then write the malicious name in the search type field to locate the malicious executable
4. In case you have discovered registry keys and values related to the name, you should delete them, but be careful not to delete legitimate keys
WARNING! All files and objects associated with Merl ransomware virus should be removed from the infected PC before any data recovery attempts. Otherwise the virus may encrypt restored files. Furthermore, a backup of all encrypted files stored on external media is highly recommendable.
1. Use present backups
2. Use professional data recovery software
Stellar Phoenix Data Recovery – a specialist tool that can restore partitions, data, documents, photos, and 300 more file types lost during various types of incidents and corruption.
3. Using System Restore Point
- – Hit WIN Key
– Select “Open System Restore” and follow the steps
4. Restore your personal files using File History
- – Hit WIN Key
– Type restore your files in the search box
– Select Restore your files with File History
– Choose a folder or type the name of the file in the search bar
– Hit the “Restore” button