What is

ZQ is a recent ransomware virus that is not known to be related to any major family of cryptoviruses. ZQ is traditional file-encrypting ransomware, sifting through the infected system and encrypting all files.

Most ransomware infections are very devastating because of the strong encryption, but not in this case. Emsisoft has actually developed a decryptor that can be used to fix the files locked by ZQ.


Computers and storage servers which have been seized by ZQ will have their files (except for the ones which are important for the operating system to run properly) locked. The locked files can be opened and viewed, but the content is not parseable anymore. That’s how encryption works — it makes the message or text that’s been encrypted impossible to understand. The ZQ locked files can immediately be recognised because their names have been edited with a new suffix:, the email address for contacting ZQ’s developer, and zq, which this virus is named after:

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And then a unique key is written, usually, you would need it to get your files decrypted by the person behind


Luckily, there has been a decryptor made to unlock the files locked by ZQ. This decryptor was developed by Emsisoft. Heres the link to the free decryptor for ZQ. This is unusual and really good for the victims of ZQ. Ransomware decryption is most often unbreakable without having the private key, and the private key is unique to each victim and usually only known to the developers of that particular ransomware, which is why each victim of one cryptovirus would be forced to pay their own ransom. The currently active Dharma/CrySiS, STOP/DJVU, GlobeImposter 2.0 cryptovirus families do not have decryptors available (though GlobeImposter’s first version did get one).

Free decryptors are great because they don’t finance the extortionists who develop ZQ and other cryptoviruses. Paid decryption, on the other hand, even when it does not come from the developers of ransomware, is a bit suspicious. Some companies who claim to be able to decrypt files, just go to the same ransomware developer and negotiate the price, then buy the decryptor from them. It’s a reality that some decryption (though not ZQ’s) is not realistically breakable, but paying the developers of ransomware is still financing criminals.


Some ransomware developers use malicious spam campaigns to try to infect computers. It’s expected that, if thousands of emails are sent, at least a few malicious attachments/links will be opened, infecting those systems with ZQ. If the target is a large company, the virus could spread through the network, encrypting multiple computers and crippling the system. Without backups, some businesses cave in and pay for decryption. Everyone should be aware of the social engineering techniques used by malicious actors. Security should be put first, before any perceived urgency of the message: malicious spam tries to make people impatient, excited, curious, and sometimes even scared in order to trick them to open/run the attached files and unwittingly infect their computer.

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Remote Desktop access is another popular way to try to infect computers with ransomware. The RD connection might be exposed unnecessarily, like using the default RDP port (TCP 3389). The login credentials might weak, for example, using passwords from the lists of most popular passwords. There could be known and unpatched security bugs in the operating system, which are then exploited by developers of ZQ. If breaking into a network or a computer is made too easy, online criminals will take advantage of that sooner or later.

Access through your Remote Desktop should only be available to the people that you expect, on the time that you expect them, with strong passwords and the lowest privileges that they need.

Remove ZQ and other malware

In case the criminals were distributing more than just ransomware, scan your computer with a good-quality antivirus program (maybe Anti-Malware Tool or Anti-Malware Tool). The ZQ likely deleted itself, but these malicious programs sometimes come in groups. Trojans, spyware, or just adware — it’s important to make sure that these programs are not lurking on your computers, and that your antivirus program is functioning and updating properly.

Stage 1: Delete Browser Extension

First of all, we would recommend that you check your browser extensions and remove any that are linked to A lot of adware and other unwanted programs use browser extensions in order to hijacker internet applications.

Remove Extension from Google Chrome

  1. Launch Google Chrome.
  2. In the address bar, type: chrome://extensions/ and press Enter.
  3. Look for or anything related to it, and once you find it, press ‘Remove’.

Uninstall Extension from Firefox

  1. Launch Mozilla Firefox.
  2. In the address bar, type: about:addons and press Enter.
  3. From the menu on the left, choose Extensions.
  4. Look for or anything related to it, and once you find it, press ‘Remove’.

Delete Extension from Safari

  1. Launch Safari.
  2. Press on the Safari Settings icon, which you can find in the upper-right corner.
  3. Select Preferences from the list.
  4. Choose the Extensions tab.
  5. Look for or anything related to it, and once you find it, press ‘Uninstall’.
  6. Additionally, open Safari Settings again and choose Downloads.
  7. If appears on the list, select it and press ‘Clear’.

Remove Add-ons from Internet Explorer

  1. Launch Internet Explorer.
  2. From the menu at the top, select Tools and then press Manage add-ons.
  3. Look for or anything related to it, and once you find it, press ‘Remove’.
  4. Reopen Internet Explorer.In the unlikely scenario that is still on your browser, follow the additional instructions below.
  5. Press Windows Key + R, type appwiz.cpl and press Enter
  6. The Program and Features window will open where you should be able to find the program.
  7. Select or any other recently installed unwanted entry and press ‘Uninstall/Change’.

Alternative method to clear the browser from

There may be cases when adware or PUPs cannot be removed by simply deleting extensions or codes. In those situations, it is necessary to reset the browser to default configuration. In you notice that even after getting rid of weird extensions the infection is still present, follow the below instructions.

Use Chrome Clean Up Tool to Delete

  1. Launch Google Chrome.
  2. In the address box, type: chrome://settings/ and press Enter.
  3. Expand Advanced settings, which you can find by scrolling down.
  4. Scroll down until you see Reset and Cleanup.
  5. Press on Clean up computer. Then press Find.

This Google Chrome feature is supposed to clear the computer of any harmful software. If it does not detect, go back to the Clean up computer and reset settings.

Reset Mozilla Firefox to Default

If you still find in your Mozilla Firefox browser, you should be able to get rid of it by restoring your Firefox settings to default. While extensions and plug-ins will be deleted, this will not touch your browser history, bookmarks, saved passwords or Internet cookies.

  1. Launch Mozilla Firefox
  2. Into the address box, type: about:support and press Enter.
  3. You will be redirected to a Troubleshooting Information page.
  4. From the menu on the right side, select Refresh Firefox.
  5. Confirm your choice by clicking Refresh Firefox in the new window.
  6. Your browser will close automatically in order to successfully restore the settings.
  7. Press Finish.

Reset Safari Browser to Normal Settings

  1. Launch Safari.
  2. Press on the Safari Settings icon, which you can find in the upper-right corner.
  3. Press Reset Safari.
  4. A new window will appear. Select the boxes of what you want to reset or use the screenshot below to guide you. Once you have selected everything, press ‘Reset’.
  5. Restart Safari.

Restore Internet Explorer to Default Settings

  1. Launch Internet Explorer.
  2. From the top menu, press on Tools and then Internet Options.
  3. In the new window that opens, choose the Advanced tab.
  4. At the bottom of the window, below Reset Internet settings, there will be a ‘Reset’ button. Press that.

While extensions and plug-ins will be deleted, this will not touch your browser history, bookmarks, saved passwords or Internet cookies.

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