All forms of malware are bad news, but ransomware is undoubtedly one of the most problematic types of malware. Basically, ransomware encrypts a victim’s files. The attacker then demands that the victim pays a ransom in order for the files to be restored.
The attacker will provide the victim with instructions on how to pay, which is usually through cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, in order to receive the decryption key for restoring the files.
Let’s take a closer look at how ransomware works and how to get rid of it should you be unfortunate enough to be a victim.
Ransomware is unfortunately difficult to remove because it’s deeply embedded in your operating system. Indeed, removal isn’t always possible and often your only choice is to completely wipe your device and reset it to factory settings.
However, with time, effort, and expertise, some variants of ransomware can be removed, so you should certainly explore removal options if you become a victim of a ransomware attack.
Check out this helpful article to learn more about getting rid of ransomware.
A Closer Look at How Ransomware Works
Cybercriminals use a number of different methods to attempt to get ransomware onto your computer.
One of the most common approaches is to use phishing spam. These are links or attachments contained in a spam email. They try to appear to be from legitimate sources to fool the victim into clicking on the link or opening the attachment. Once a victim does that, the ransomware can take over the victim’s computer.
People can be tricked into allowing administrative access, while other forms of ransomware are more aggressive and exploit security holes in order to infect computers with the malware.
Other methods include cybercriminals pretending to be from law enforcement agencies that need to shut down people’s computers and cybercriminals leaving potential victims with USB sticks that contain ransomware.
Most methods of ransomware attacks involve encrypting victims’ files and only releasing them once a ransom has been paid. But there are also variations in which the attacker threatens to publicize the victim’s sensitive data unless a ransom is paid.
Encryption ransomware via phishing emails is by far the most common form of a ransomware attack.
When a victim’s files are encrypted, they cannot usually be decrypted without accessing the mathematical key that’s in the possession of the attacker. The files are only decrypted after the victim sends the ransom amount via untraceable cryptocurrency.
You should also be aware that there are various variants of ransomware that you could potentially be targeted with. Some are more prolific and successful than others.
Common ransomware variants include:
- Maze ransomware, which combines file encryption with data theft.
- Ryuk ransomware, which is typically delivered via spear phishing emails or by using the compromised credentials of a user to log into systems with the Remote Desktop Protocol.
- DearCry ransomware, which is a fairly new variant of ransomware that takes advantage of recently disclosed vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange.
- REvil ransomware, also known as Sodinokibi, which began life as a traditional form of ransomware but evolved to include the double extortion technique that involves stealing data from businesses and encrypting files. That means if victims do not pay a second ransom, the cybercriminals behind the attack could threaten to release the stolen data.
Preventing Ransomware Attacks
While it’s difficult, but not impossible, to get rid of ransomware, you can take steps to prevent a ransomware attack. The defensive options available can also prevent other forms of cybercrime attacks, so it makes sense to learn how to safeguard yourself against such attacks.
First and foremost, never click on links or open attachments that are from unreliable sources. If you have any doubt about the trustworthiness of a link or attachment, never click on it. Similarly, never install software that gives administrative privileges unless you trust the source.
You should also always install antivirus software that can detect malicious programs like ransomware. Furthermore, make sure you keep your operating system patched and up-to-date. That helps to ensure that your computer has fewer vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit in the first place.
Lastly, get into a habit of always backing up your files. If you always back up your important files, such as on a hard drive or in the cloud, you’ll be able to access them even if the files on your computer are targeted and encrypted by cybercriminals.