The author of the original Petya ransomware released the master key

Pierluigi Paganini July 07, 2017

The author of the original variant of the Petya ransomware has made the master key available online, all the victims can decrypt their files for free.

Janus, the author of the original variant of Petya ransomware (that isn’t the NotPetya variant used in the recent massive attack) has made the master key available online.

All the victims of the original Petya ransomware can now use the master key for free to decrypt their files.

“As research concluded, the original author of Petya, Janus, was not involved in the latest attacks on Ukraine. His original malware was pirated and extended by an unknown actor (read more here).” reads a blog post published by MalwareByte “As a result of the recent events, Janus probably decided to shut down the Petya project. Similarly to the authors of TeslaCrypt, he released his private key, allowing all the victims of the previous Petya attacks, to get their files back.”

Researchers from KasperskyLab confirmed that the master key released by Janus works on files encrypted by the original Petya ransomware and early versions the GoldenEye ransomware.

“The published #Petya master key works for all versions including #GoldenEye,” tweeted Ivanov from Kaspersky Lab.


GoldenEye is a ransomware created by Janus in 2016 that is based on the Petya code, unfortunately, someone has stolen the “compiled application” of the threat in 2017 and modified it.

“The source code of the original Petya has never been leaked publicly, so in case it was recompiled it proves that the original Petya’s author, Janus, is somehow linked to the current outbreak (either this is his work or he has sold the code to another actor).” wrote Hasherezade in one of its analysis.

The expert confirmed that a stolen version of the ransomware that is based on the GoldenEye code was used in the massive NotPetya attack (aka ExPetr, Eternal Petya). Unlike previous versions, the NotPetya variant doesn’t implement the feature to decrypt files.


In April 2016, researchers developed a tool to decrypt files encrypted by early Petya ransomware versions. The Twitter user @leostone announced to have elaborated a method to generate passwords in less than a minute. The user also developed a website to help victims generate keys for restoring encrypted files.

In order to generate a decryption key, the victim just needs to provide certain information on the infected drive. The researcher Fabian Wosar from Emisoft as developed an application that is able to automatize the process extracting data from infected Petya drives and generate the key for the data rescue.

The security experts Lawrence Abrams, who contribute at blog, has prepared a guide on how to use the tool.

Abrams explained that the tool scans the infected drive searching for the Petya bootcode. Once detected the code, it selects it and allow users to simply copy both the sectors and nonce associated with it. These data (a Base64-encoded 512 bytes verification data and a Base64-encoded 8 bytes nonce) could be used to generate the password through the @leostone’s website.

“An individual going by the twitter handle leostone was able to create an algorithm that can generate the password used to decrypt a Petya encrypted computer. In my test this, this algorithm was able to generate my key in 7 seconds.” wrote Abrams in a blog post.

petya ransomware

To discover the password, the user has to physically remove the drive from the infected machine and attach it to either a Windows machine or a USB drive docking station and to launch the Wosar’s tool.

“To use Leostone’s decryption tool you will need attach the Petya affected drive to another computer and extract specific data from it.  The data that needs to be extracted is 512-bytes starting at sector 55 (0x37h) with an offset of 0 and the 8 byte nonce from sector 54 (0x36) offset: 33 (0x21).  This data then needs to be converted to Base64 encoding and used on the site to generate the key.” continues Abrams.

“Unfortunately, for many victims extracting this data is not an easy task. The good news is that Fabian Wosar created a special tool that can be used to easily extract this data. In order to use this tool, you need to take the encrypted drive from the affected computer and attach it to a Windows computer that is working properly. If your infected computer has multiple drives, you should only remove the drive that is the boot drive, or C:\ drive, for your computer.”

Once obtained the password, users should be able to reconnect their encrypted drive and enter it to restore the files encrypted by the Petya ransomware.

In response to the tool, the Petya’s author updated the ransomware neutralizing it.

“Thanks to the currently published master key, all the people who have preserved the images of the disks encrypted by the relevant versions of Petya, may get a chance of getting their data back,” Hasherezade wrote.

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Pierluigi Paganini 

(Security Affairs – Petya Ransomware, cybercrime)

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