Ransomware has become a significant problem for computer users and IT professionals. It is difficult to remove and can be used to steal your data or hold it hostage until you pay the ransom. Here we will explain what Ransomware is, how it operates, and how you can protect yourself from its dangers.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your data or locks you out of your computer until you pay the ransom. The criminals behind this malware often target high-value files so they can maximize their profit potential. Of course, Ransomware has been around since 1989 but only became popular in recent years with the rise of cryptocurrencies and anonymous transactions.
To run, Ransomware typically needs administrator privileges on your system. In addition, the criminals usually use social engineering tactics to trick you into running a malicious file or visiting a hacked website that installs the malware directly onto your computer.
Here are some standard methods they use:
- Spam email with an attachment containing a link or download.
- Fake alerts from antivirus programs saying there is a virus and directing you to bogus websites for help.
- Hijacked advertisements showing up as pop-ups on legitimate sites like Google Search results. If successful, this will install Ransomware onto your PC without your knowledge. Once installed, all of the files in its path become encrypted by robust encryption algorithms such as RSA cryptosystem.
Common Types Of Ransomware Attacks:
- Lock Screen. These lock you out of your PC and displays a fake alert claiming to be from the police. It says that there has been illegal activity on your computer and demands payment for them not to press charges.
- File Encryption. Files are encrypted with high military-grade encryption levels, making it difficult or impossible to recover unless you have access to their decryption key. They will often demand money in exchange for this key so they can unlock all of your data.
- Ransomware as a Service. Also known as RaaS, criminals sell tools that allow other people without technical skills to infect computers, lock them down, encrypt files, then extort victims into paying a ransom.
- Ransomware on Mobile Devices. This type of Ransomware is installed onto your phone through an infected app or link you download. The criminals then use the same tactics to extort money from their victims within 24 hours before they get locked out forever, lose their data, and it’s impossible to recover anything.
Ways To Remove Ransomware
Once Ransomware has taken control of your computer, there are ways for you to remove it depending on the attack.
Lock Screen. You can try restarting in safe mode, so Windows doesn’t load the lock screen. But this isn’t always successful if the malware uses a robust encryption algorithm like RSA cryptosystem, making decryption very difficult without access to their key. If restarting in safe mode doesn’t work, you can also try booting into an Ubuntu live CD, bypassing the lock screen and allowing you to access your files without running Windows or opening any locked programs.
File Encryption. You may need to use a tool like Data Recovery Pro (a paid product) if the encryption is strong enough that free software tools cannot break it. Some ransomware like Tesla Crypt encrypts each file with its own unique RSA key, so even if someone cracks one of them, this won’t help decrypt other ones unless they know what order they were encrypted.
This means using Data Recovery Pro on every single file individually until all of them are recovered, which takes forever! Some ransomware like Crypto Wall and Spora encrypts your files with a single key, so both Data Recovery Pro and free tools can be successful, but it depends on which specific one you have.
You may find people online who sell decryption keys for certain types of Ransomware attacks. Still, the prices usually are incredibly high – anywhere from $700 to thousands of dollars, depending on how much your data is worth.
Ransomware as a Service. If someone infected their PC through this type, then they should contact their IT department or an expert to help remove it immediately because there’s no telling what kind of ransom demand will come once they get control back.
Ransomware on Mobile Devices. There aren’t many options in most cases since mobile devices don’t have the same advanced security features as PCs. This makes them easier to break into and infect with Ransomware. So, it’s always best practice to regularly backup your data, secure your phone with a strong pin or password/touch-ID (preferably both), and avoid downloading apps from untrusted sources like torrent websites.