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The Ransom Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

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Wipe this threat from your system; The Ransom Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

Booted up your computer to find you’ve been locked away from all your files and a demand for money has been made? You’ve been infected by a Ransom virus or Ransomware.

Ransom viruses can affect both Windows and Mac based computers. Windows-based machines are more likely to be affected by ransom viruses, but that doesn’t mean you’re free of the threat on a Mac.

What Is the Ransom Virus?

The Ransom Virus is a type of malware that infiltrates your computer, preventing you access to your files, and often threatening to erase them all if you don’t pay a ransom within a set deadline.

Ransom malware, or ransomware, is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files and demands ransom payment in order to regain access. While some people might think “a virus locked my computer,” ransomware would typically be classified as a different form of malware than a virus. The earliest variants of ransomware were developed in the late 1980s, and payment was to be sent via snail mail. Today, ransomware authors order that payment be sent via cryptocurrency or credit card, and attackers target individuals, businesses, and organizations of all kinds. Some ransomware authors sell the service to other cybercriminals, which is known as Ransomware-as-a-Service or RaaS.

Also known as Ransomware, this virus type is particularly malicious if you don’t already have backups of your files stored elsewhere.

How Do Ransom Viruses Work?

Ransom viruses work by effectively holding your files and data hostage. Since your data is the most valuable part of your computer, the attacker then charges an often considerable sum to unlock the files so you regain access to them.

Some ransomware viruses encrypt the files in a way that mean even if you pay the ransom, they’re lost forever. Others allow the creator of the virus the ability to view, copy, and delete your files however they wish to deal with them.

It’s important that you delete the threat quickly, as well as learn how to avoid the threat altogether.

How Do I Know I Have a Ransom Virus?

Ransom viruses are very difficult to detect. They lurk in the background until they’re ready to activate. One of the few methods that work well is to keep an eye on your hard drive activity.

Do you seem to be losing space and you don’t know why? In order to encrypt the files, the ransom virus has to duplicate those files so it takes up substantial space. It’s worth keeping an eye on things.

Another pivotal method is to run regular antivirus software scans or use malware detection tools to spot any potential issues before they get worse.

How Did I Get the Ransom Virus?

Ransom viruses come from multiple sources. One of the most common methods is via unsolicited emails that contain attachments containing the virus, or links to malicious websites.

You can also be infected by the virus by clicking on suspicious ads or popup banners and receiving files that way. Any form of illicit behavior online can open you up to being infected with Ransom viruses.

How Do I Get Rid of the Ransom Virus?

The most effective way to get rid of a Ransom virus is to use antivirus software, as well as a malware removal app. Both can detect such threats before they cause any damage.

Antivirus software can take several hours to complete the process, depending on the speed of your computer, but it also offers you the best methods in which to remove the malicious files.

It’s also worth installing a malware removal tool that helps detect malware like Ransomware viruses and delete it before it causes any problems.

Like antivirus software, malware scanning can take many hours depending on the size of your computer’s hard drive, as well as its speed.

Before the Ransom virus has fully encrypted and blocked off your files, you can also use System Restore to return to an earlier point on your computer before you picked up the Ransom virus. Be sure to pick a time period where you know you definitely didn’t already have the virus on your computer.

In certain cases, if you’re infected by a Ransom virus, you can lose all your files so it’s important to have backups of your computer at all times.

How Can I Avoid Getting the Ransom Virus Again?

There are a few key ways in which you can lower your chances of being re-infected with a Ransomware malware virus (or receiving any other virus). There are also specific tips that relate directly to this type of virus.

  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection. Keep your antivirus software and malware protection up to date. New virus definitions are released regularly and these keep your PC informed on what to look for with new virus and malware-based threats.
  • Stick to well-known websites. Ransom viruses can also infect your computer through the suspicious websites you might browse. Clicking on the ‘wrong’ link can lead to you downloading a form of Ransomware. Be careful on websites such as torrenting sites.
  • Don’t click on banner ads. When a pop-up banner appears when browsing a website, don’t click on it. Often, it’s safest to go to a different website than stay on a site that inundates you with pop-up adverts.

Types of ransomware

Three main types of ransomware include scareware, screen lockers, and encrypting ransomware:

  • Scareware: Scareware, as it turns out, is not that scary. It includes rogue security software and tech support scams. You might receive a pop-up message claiming that malware was discovered and the only way to get rid of it is to pay up. If you do nothing, you’ll likely continue to be bombarded with pop-ups, but your files are essentially safe. A legitimate cybersecurity software program would not solicit customers in this way. If you don’t already have this company’s software on your computer, then they would not be monitoring you for ransomware infection. If you do have security software, you wouldn’t need to pay to have the infection removed—you’ve already paid for the software to do that very job.
  • Screen lockers: Upgrade to terror alert orange for these guys. When lock-screen ransomware gets on your computer, it means you’re frozen out of your PC entirely. Upon starting up your computer, a full-size window will appear, often accompanied by an official-looking FBI or US Department of Justice seal saying illegal activity has been detected on your computer and you must pay a fine. However, the FBI would not freeze you out of your computer or demand payment for illegal activity. If they suspected you of piracy, child pornography, or other cybercrimes, they would go through the appropriate legal channels.
  • Encrypting ransomware: This is the truly nasty stuff. These are the guys who snatch up your files and encrypt them, demanding payment in order to decrypt and redeliver. The reason why this type of ransomware is so dangerous is because once cybercriminals get ahold of your files, no security software or system restore can return them to you. Unless you pay the ransom—for the most part, they’re gone. And even if you do pay up, there’s no guarantee the

Ransomware examples

While ransomware has technically been around since the ’90s, it’s only taken off in the past five years or so, largely because of the availability of untraceable payment methods like Bitcoin. Some of the worst offenders have been:

  • CryptoLocker, a 2013 attack, launched the modern ransomware age and infected up to 500,000 machines at its height.
  • TeslaCrypt targeted gaming files and saw constant improvement during its reign of terror.
  • SimpleLocker was the first widespread ransomware attack that focused on mobile devices
  • WannaCry spread autonomously from computer to computer using EternalBlue, an exploit developed by the NSA and then stolen by hackers.
  • NotPetya also used EternalBlue and may have been part of a Russian-directed cyberattack against Ukraine.
  • Locky started spreading in 2016 and was “similar in its mode of attack to the notorious banking software Dridex.” A variant, Osiris, was spread through phishing campaigns.
  • Leatherlocker was first discovered in 2017 in two Android applications: Booster & Cleaner and Wallpaper Blur HD. Rather than encrypt files, it locks the home screen to prevent access to data.
  • Wysiwye, also discovered in 2017, scans the web for open Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers. It then tries to steal RDP credentials to spread across the network.
  • Cerber proved very effective when it first appeared in 2016, netting attackers $200,000 in July of that year. It took advantage of a Microsoft vulnerability to infect networks.
  • BadRabbit spread across media companies in Eastern Europe and Asia in 2017.
  • SamSam has been around since 2015 and targeted primarily healthcare organizations.
  • Ryuk first appeared in 2018 and is used in targeted attacks against vulnerable organizations such as hospitals. It is often used in combination with other malware like TrickBot.
  • Maze is a relatively new ransomware group known for releasing stolen data to the public if the victim does not pay to decrypt it.
  • RobbinHood is another EternalBlue variant that brought the city of Baltimore, Maryland, to its knees in 2019.
  • GandCrab might be the most lucrative ransomware ever. Its developers, which sold the program to cybercriminals, claim more then $2 billion in victim payouts as of July 2019.
  • Sodinokibi targets Microsoft Windows systems and encrypts all files except configuration files. It is related to GandCrab
  • Thanos is the newest ransomware on this list, discovered in January 2020. It is sold as ransomware as a service, It is the first to use the RIPlace technique, which can bypass most anti-ransomware methods.

This list is just going to get longer. Follow the tips listed here to protect yourself.

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