Ransomware is arguably one of the worst experiences you can undergo as a computer user. Ransomware is a virus-like attack that hackers use to take your computer and its operating system hostage, and demand for you to pay a specified amount before they give the control of the computer back to you. Aside from having to deal with the stress and potential anxiety, you also lose money because you have to pay the hackers.
Luckily, knowing how to remove ransomware and how to prevent it in the future is something any computer user can do and not have to worry about potential attacks. Before we fully explain how to remove ransomware and prevent it from happening in the future, it’s best to talk more about the viruses, and how a user can get them.
What Is Ransomware?
As we stated earlier, a ransomware attack is when the hacker takes your computer hostage and demands a payment before the computer can be under your control again. Ransomware, which is also known as ransom malware, will not allow you to access your files, including sensitive and important documents, thus making the virus that much of a threat. And it’s not just computers that are vulnerable to ransomware. Mobile devices and other gadgets like tablets can also be targeted by ransomware attacks.
Ransomware dates back to as early as the 1980s. Back then, those responsible for the ransomware attack would demand a payment, which would have to be sent via snail mail. As for today, victims are forced to either use their credit card or cryptocurrency to pay the hackers. There are three different types of ransomware attacks: scare-ware (easy to remove), screen/browser locker (requires anti-malware), and data encrypter (the most dangerous).
Simply put, scare-ware programs are fake antivirus or PC cleanup tools that pretend to detect issues on your computer and demand money to clean them up.
The next level of ransomware is a screen/browser locker. Fake U.S. Department or FBI messages pop up and claim that they have detected illegal activity on your computer. As a result, you have to pay a “fine.”
This is perhaps the most dangerous of all ransomware attacks. Your files become locked and inaccessible until you pay a ransom. Now that you have acquainted yourself with ransomware and the three different categories of attacks, you are one step closer in knowing how to remove ransomware.
How Do You Get Ransomware?
This guide isn’t meant to scare you nor expect you to believe the next time you go online, you will be infected with ransomware. Mostly, people get ransomware when they have to deal with suspicious websites, links, attachments, and so on. Generally speaking, it’s best to use your best judgment and be extra cautious. If you feel like you are about to run into ransomware, it’s best to stay away. But how do you even get ransomware?
The most common way of getting ransomware on your computer is through malicious spam, or malspam. Malspam is unsolicited email that is used to deliver malware to your computer. Whether it’s an attachment, a link, or anything else in the email that requires you to click and open it, it most likely contains a virus. To make the malspam look legitimate and authentic, hackers use social engineering by making the email look like it’s from a trusted institution or a friend. Hackers also use social engineering to pose as the FBI and trick you into paying a fine (screen/browser locker).
Another popular method which reached its peak in 2016 is malvertising. Malvertising, or malicious advertising, is using online advertising to distribute malware with little to no user interaction required. While browsing the web, users can be redirected to criminal servers without clicking on any links or ads. The servers then analyze the victim’s computer and choose the best ransomware to attack with.
At first, ransomware attacks would target random people browsing the internet. However, over time, hackers behind ransomware saw the attacks to be more profitable if the victims were businesses. Attacks on businesses were extremely profitable because they halted productivity and created loss of data and revenue. To put things in perspective, by 2017, 35 percent of small to medium businesses experienced a ransomware attack.
How to Remove Ransomware
Now that you know what ransomware is and how people get ransomware, this guide will explain the best way of dealing with ransomware and how to remove ransomware.
Ways To Remove Ransomware
To be absolutely clear, the number one golden rule when it comes to dealing with ransomware is to never pay the hackers. By paying the hackers, you are encouraging them to continue their future attacks, and letting them get away with being a cybercriminal. So, the question now is, how to remove ransomware?
- One method of removing ransomware is to restore your backups, but that is only applicable if you have taken backup of important data on a separate local drive or cloud storage. If you did backup your files, copy them on a storage disk and confirm that the disk isn’t affected by looking for encrypted files. Afterwards, scan the disk with an anti-malware program. Finally, format the affected disk with encrypted data and restore the backed up data safely.
- Another method of dealing with ransomware is to use decryption tools. It’s important to note that not all ransomware has had decryptors created for it because some ransomware programs have utilized advanced encryption algorithms. Also, even if there is a decryptor available, it’s not always clear if it’s for your specific version of the malware. To find out what kind of ransomware is on your device, visit NoMoreRansom.org, upload the ransom note, the email, or the website associated with the note, and see what the next step is supposed to be.
- You can also try to download a security product known for remediation and run a scan to remove the threat. Although you may not get all of your files back, the threat will be cleaned up.
- You can also try to talk to an IT specialist or a cybersecurity professional. Contact one and see what they have to say about the problem.
- Turning your device off and on again can also do the trick. If you feel like your system is slowing down, disconnect it from the internet and try to reconnect. After restarting your device, if the ransomware message is still there, it will not be able to send or receive instructions from the server. Ultimately, what this means is that the ransomware will stay idle and not be able to accept payments. From that point on, you can go ahead and download a security product, run a full scan, and act according to the information you will be provided with.
- If everything fails and you have nothing else to do, you can try and negotiate with the hackers. For the hackers, they only want your money. You don’t have to give them the exact amount that they specified in their note, however. Try negotiating and see what happens. If they persist and refuse to lower the price, you can either meet their demands (remember the golden rule!) or contact an expert. Use this as your last resort.
How To Protect Yourself From Ransomware
The above steps answer the question of how to remove ransomware. However, it’s better to not deal with ransomware at all. Luckily, there are many useful tips for avoiding paying the hackers and ensuring you will not encounter any ransomware attacks. Here are a few.
- Always backup your files and data. If you ever do get hit with a ransomware attack, you’ll be able to refer to the first solution with ease.
- Don’t open any suspicious links, emails, and so on. If the email came from someone you don’t know or some kind of organization you have no affiliation with, it’s best to ignore the email.
- Be sure to upgrade your operating system regularly. The more outdated your device is, the easier it is to hack.
- Take advantage of anti-malware programs and software.
- Invest in cybersecurity. The more protected and reinforced your device is, the harder it will be hack. Either do some research on your own or consult an expert if you are a small business owner, or just want to be cautious.
In the modern world, cybercrimes and cybercriminals are a serious threat, especially if you own and operate a business. Having to deal with a ransomware attack can be problematic and very stressful. Hopefully, now that you know how to remove ransomware and how to prevent ransomware, you will be more cautious and prepared.
As for the solutions, be sure to backup all important files and sensitive information. You also want to consult with a cyber expert and see what kind of advice he or she will provide you with. Also, always remember the golden rule: never pay the hackers and never meet their demands because there is always a solution, one way or another.