Ransomware is one of the world’s fastest growing types of Malware and it is as scary as it sounds. While initially popular in Russia, the use of ransomware scams has grown internationally.

Ransomware, which demands payment after launching a cyber attack, has become a rising trend among hackers looking for a quick payout. The malware attack puts you in a sticky situation, so it’s important to know about ransomware protection and how to avoid it.

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What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of Malicious Software which is designed to extort money (ransom) from the user. This cyber attack involves hackers taking control of the computer and blocking access or encrypting all the files until a ransom is paid.

Simple ransomware may only lock the PC but more other advanced malware encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible. Paying the ransom (either through credit card or Bitcoins) however, does not guarantee that you’ll get your files back.

Types Of Ransomware

There are two types of ransomware – lock screen ransomware and encryption ransomware.

Lock screen ransomware shows a full-screen message that prevents you from accessing your PC or files. It says you have to pay money (a “ransom”) to get access to your PC again.

Encryption ransomware encrypts your file so that you don’t have access of it and can’t use them. It also shows you a message on screen.

CryptoLocker ransomware is a file-encrypting ransomware. It encrypts the personal documents found on your computer using RSA-2048 key (AES CBC 256-bit encryption algorithm).

Older or lighter versions of ransomware usually claim you have done something illegal with your PC, and that you are being fined by a police force or government agency. These claims are false. It is a scare tactic designed to make you pay the money without telling anyone who might be able to restore your PC.


How Does Ransomware Infect Your PC?

Ransomware can get on your PC from nearly any source that any other malware (including viruses) can come from. These sources are:

  • Visiting suspicious, infected or compromised website.
  • Opening emails and email attachments or link from people you don’t know.
  • Downloading fake or look alike software like Flash Player or Java OR bundled with other software.

Once the software is installed on your computer the hackers can launch an attack. And they will have the complete control of your computer and all it’s files.

What Does Ransomware Do?

After getting installed, ransomware locks your computer and  prevent you from using your PC normally. If it is CryptoLocker Ransomware, it will encrypt the hard drive.

Ransomware can:

  • Prevent you from accessing Windows.
  • Encrypt PC files so you can’t use them.
  • Stop certain apps from running (like your web browser or security software).

After locking or encypting it will show you a message like the one show below. In the message Ransomware will demand that you pay a ransom to get access to your PC or files. There is no guarantee that paying the fine or doing what the ransomware tells you will give access to your PC or files again.

Ransomware-wana-decryptor-2-0

Ransomware Protection & Prevention

There are several things you should do in order to make your computer safe and secure from ransomware attacks.

First, make sure you have a good and strong security software installed (not the free version). If you don’t have any security software installed Malwarebytes 3.0 is much better option for ransomware protection. Malwarebytes 3.0 is considered as one of the best security softwares to protect your computer from ransomware, malware, viruses etc with Real-Time Protection.

Also, update your security software regularly. Enable Windows SmartScreen Filter, Windows Defender and Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS) to get the latest cloud-based ransomware detection and blocking.

Ransomware shouldn’t even get through if a PC is running a fully latest copy of Windows, Microsoft’s SmartScreen or Google Safe Browsing, and up-to-date Windows Defender or any other anti-virus software.

Second, make sure all the software on your computer is up to date, including your operating system, browser, security and any toolbar plug-ins or extensions you use.

One of the most common attack is finding vulnerability in older version of softwares like java or flash player etc or tool bar and then exploiting it. Keeping software up to date helps minimize the likelihood that your system has an exposed vulnerability on it.

Last but not least activate and regularly update Windows Defender and Windows Firewall protection. And most importantly upgrade to Windows 10, as Microsoft have stopped supporting older version of operating systems. So the older version like XP, Vista, Windows 7 are more vulnerable.

Some Of The Best Anti-Ransomware Software

Malwarebytes 3.0
Kaspersky Total Security
Avast Internet Security
AVG Ultimate
BullGuard Antivirus

Other Ransomware Prevention Tips

Enable Windows SmartScreen protection. It will prevent you from browsing sites that are known to be hosting exploits, and protect you from socially-engineered attacks such as phishing and malware downloads.

  • Beware of phishing emails, spams, and opening malicious attachment.
  • Don’t click on a link in an email, or in a chat message unless you absolutely trust the page or sender.
  • Disable the loading of macros in your Office programs.
  • Use a safe and password-protected internet connection.
  • Disable your Remote Desktop feature whenever possible.
  • Avoid browsing web sites that are known for being malware breeding grounds (illegal download sites, porn sites, etc.).

How To Remove Ransomware From Infected Computer?

Some ransomware viruses are relatively easy to remove, while others are hard. If you have the simplest kind of ransomware, like scare ware or with FBI message, which displays a message that your laptop has been locked by the FBI or a local police force. Which is not true.You can remove them by using the Windows Task Manager to close the browser, or force quit on Macs, then run an anti-virus program.

If your PC is infected by ransomware you can try these procedures to remove ransomware from your computer.

Restore Your Computer

If the ransomware prevents you from entering Windows or running programs, as lock-screen viruses typically do, you can try to use System Restore tool. While doing system restore it will not affect your personal files. All it does is to return system files and programs to the state they were in at a certain time. The System Restore feature must be enabled (Windows enables it by default) with a restore point beforehand.

Use Safe Mode

Use Safe Mode to see if you are able to login to your computer or not. If yes then run Windows Defender or any other anti virus or anti ransomware tool to remove ransomware. If your security software is not up-to date then restart the computer in Safe Mode With Networking and then update the software.

Use Bootable Anti-Virus

If System Restore is not working and you are not able to get into Safe Mode, try running a Ransomware Removal Tool from a bootable disc or USB drive. You can use Norton Bootable Recovery Tool, Kaspersky Rescue Disk  or Avira Rescue System.

Bootable antiviruses are anti-malware applications that can be installed and run on an external storage like a flash drive or a CD. It is also called offline scan.

You need a different computer to download any of those bootable rescue tools and transfer it to the bootable USB drive or a CD. And then running it on the infected computer.

Clean Reinstall Windows

If neither of the above is working for you or you are lacking resources then you can try clean reinstalling of Windows. For Windows 10 users (including 8 and 8.1) you can do that using the Advance Startup Option.

If you have Windows 7 then you can use bootable CD or a flash drive with windows copy on it. You can also use recovery drive or CD if you have.

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Recovery Of Encrypted Files

Is it possible to decrypt files without paying the ransom? Well, Yes and No Both.

Some ransomware are programs encrypt files or hard drives with military grade encryption. In this case, it’s almost impossible to decrypt your files.

In some cases, malware researchers are able to exploit flaws in ransomware encryption methods to create tools that allow victims to decrypt their files without paying the ransom.

Check out these AVG Free Ransomware Decryption Tools.

Conclusion

Some general FAQ about ransomware you should know. Should you pay the ransom? Paying ransom is never recommended as it encourages the attackers. Even if you do pay there is also no guarantee of decrpyting all files. Is my smartphone safe? No. Smartphones are also targeted by ransomware.

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