Security Experts:

Fonix Ransomware Operators Close Shop, Release Decryption Keys

The cybercriminals behind the Fonix ransomware have announced plans to shut down their activity, and have already released the master decryption key for the malware.

Also known as FonixCrypter and Xonif, the ransomware has been operating since June 2020, with several variants observed since. The ransomware would add the .FONIX, .XINOF, .Fonix, or .repter extensions to the encrypted files.

“You know about Fonix team but we have come to the conclusion. We should use our abilities in positive ways and help others. […] Anyway now main admin has decided to put all previous work aside and decrypt all infected systems at no cost. And the decryption key will be available to the public,” the cyber-group announced on Twitter.

In the shutdown announcement, the operators also said that the ransomware’s source code was deleted, but warned that some people involved in the project might attempt to scam others by selling them fake code.

In a separate message on the social platform, the group published a link to the master RSA key needed to restore encrypted files, as well as to a sample decryptor, which victims can use to recover their files without having to pay a ransom.

They also announced that victims can send emails to XINOF [@] to have their files decrypted for free. Furthermore, the Fonix operators offered to help security researchers create decryption tools for the ransomware.

According to its operators, the Fonix project was launched due to their poor financial situation, and the shutdown would help the developers stop feeling guilty.

While the group did not make it clear what influenced the decision to close the operation, it should be noted that other ransomware operators made similar moves in the past, including those behind GandCrab, Shade, and TeslaCrypt.

Fonix’ shutdown announcement was made the same week law enforcement revealed the infrastructure behind the massive Emotet botnet was disrupted and taken over by authorities, with a cleanup operation set to begin within the next few months.

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