What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a computer virus that infects the computer with the sole intention of extorting money from victims. Its objective is to make the common file unreadable so that it can justify the request for ransom payment in order to restore the data to its original form. This kind of virus is considered as cyber crime actions that can infiltrate the computer through deceptive links and malicious file downloads.
More about Ransomware
This kind of malicious software or Malware is clever in restricting user’s access to their computer or personal data such as documents, images, photos, videos, and similar items. The denial of access to the device or files will persist until you are forced to pay the requested money. Usual payment scheme for this kind of attack is often in Bitcoin crypto-currency. Aside from being a profitable currency, using this channel of payment makes it hard for authorities to track down the offenders.
Ransomware is a form of cyber-blackmailing tactics by online criminals and is considered as one of the most dangerous type of computer virus today. It is spreading rapidly worldwide at an enormous speed using various deployment vectors like spam emails, pirated software, infected websites, malicious advertisements, or fake software update being pushed by online ads.
With different variants of ransomware being developed, the number of computer users being infected with this virus keeps growing along with the creation of new versions or modified model for a much hazardous payload. Other ransomware were just recycled from the older variants, but seemingly powered by a new set of codes and a much complex cipher. This cycle of ransomware makes it a constantly growing threat that puts computer user’s security in jeopardy.
What Are the types of Ransomware?
There are two types of ransomware that is widely spread over the internet. They are Locker and Crypto ransomware. They may be different in methods, but shares the same objective of extorting money from the innocent victims.
This type of virus blocks user’s access to the device or basic computer functions. Some Locker ransomware may appear at the boot level of computers, while others will let the user enter the Windows OS screen but deny access to log-in screen or program operation. Hence, the most influential ones are those that claims to be from FBI or Government entities claiming to have found illicit objects on the computer.
On the other hand, crypto ransomware like DJVU, Xorist, Dharma, HiddenTear, and similar types were developed to encrypt data on the computer especially crucial files like document, photos, images, videos, and so on. Victims were threatened that data will be permanently be encrypted or destroyed unless a fee is transmitted to the designated payment channel. The bulk number of Crypto ransomware are targeting ordinary computer users. Hence, there is an observation about the steady growth of attacks on corporation, offices, and institutions such as government, universities, and health sectors.
How to prevent ransomware infection?
It is not really difficult to avoid ransomware type of infection. In fact, the majority of victims are just a tiny percentage of overall computer users globally. Normally, those that are careless when using the internet often fall victim to this dreaded virus. To prevent the infection, we prefer to provide these computer security practices to depend against all sorts of virus attack.
- Always download and install system patches or update for the operating system to make sure that latest security modules are applied to the computer.
- Update every program on the computer as necessary. Be sure to download the software update from official sites and legitimate sources.
- Avoid downloading pirated software and freeware that are being offered by suspicious websites. As much as possible, obtain any particular apps from official websites.
- Be sure to protect the computer with effective anti-virus or anti-malware tools. These programs are useful in automatically detecting the threat and thus, it thwarts the potential infection.
- Lastly, run a file backup routine. This is may not help in preventing the ransomware attack but ensures file safety just in case the virus have penetrated the computer and manages to encrypt the data.
One important step before proceeding with the procedures below is to backup your files. Ransomware are not the same. Each has its unique sets of payloads aside from encrypting the files with complex method. Others tend to delete the infected files after certain period, while others keep them concealed on hidden places. In addition, ransomware decryption tools are not guaranteed to be perfect, there are instances that files suffer from damages during the decryption process. So, create a backup copy of your entire encrypted files right now.
How to Remove a Ransomware
First thing to do is to remove the ransomware before attempting the decryption. Remember that as long as the ransomware is active, it will repeatedly encrypt the files on the compromised computer.
Infection of ransom virus is dangerous to the system because it can inject files that runs each time Windows starts. To prevent the malicious files from loading, Windows operating system must run with minimal process and it can be done through SafeMode With Networking.
Stage 1 : Temporarily Disable System Restore on Windows OS
Because ransomware and relevant virus is capable of reinstating itself by exploiting the System Restore of Windows, we suggests that you temporary disable System Restore while executing the steps. This option is also helpful to effectively run a full scan on the computer.
Do not forget to enable back System Restore after completing the removal of ransomware. This feature is vital in reinstating the operating system to previous normal working condition in case of problems or conflicts occurs.
Stage 2 : Start Windows in Safe Mode With Networking
Windows 10 Guide
1. Click on Windows logo and select Power icon when options pop-ups.
2. Select Restart from the options while pressing Shift key on the keyboard.
3. Choose an Option window will appear, select the Troubleshoot button.
4. On next window, please choose Advanced Option.
5. On Advanced Option window, click on Startup Settings and then, click Restart button to reboot the computer.
6. When Windows boot on Startup Settings, press function key F5 or number 5 on keyboard.
A simpler alternative for Windows 10 users is to scan the computer with Microsoft Defender Offline. This will run a virus scan in the recovery environment.
Windows 8 Guide
1. Click Windows Start icon at the lower left section of the screen.
2. Open Search window and type Advanced in the field. It will open General PC Settings.
3. Click on Advanced Startup and then, click on Restart Now button.
4. Once the computer starts in Advanced Startup option menu, select Troubleshoot.
5. Next, click on Advanced Options to reveal the next section.
6. Click Startup settings and then, click Restart button to boot the PC in Startup Settings.
7. Use function key F5 or number key 5 to Enable Safe Mode with Networking.
Stage 3 : Scan the Computer with Malware Removal Tool
Ransomware files are placed deeply into the system and on various locations, thus, thorough scanning is vital to totally remove the ransomware. Aside from our suggested tool, you may also run your own security program.
To remove the ransomware automatically, scanning the computer with this efficient anti-malware tool is suggested. This scanner does not just uncover known threats like viruses or malware, it is also effective in discovering hazardous ransomware.
1. Download Sophos Virus Removal Tool from the link below. Save the file on your computer where you can easily access it.
2. Once the download completes, browse the location of the file. Double-click to run the program and begin the install process.
3. On first windows of installation wizard, click Next to continue. Then, it will display the program’s License Agreement. You need to Accept the terms in order to proceed. If Windows prompts for User Account Control, please click Yes to proceed.
4. On succeeding windows, click Next or Continue to carry on with the installation. After completing the installation process, Launch Sophos Virus Removal Tool.
5. Internet connection is required when running this virus scanner in order to download important updates. Make sure that everything is up-to-date to effectively remove the ransomware and other relevant viruses.
6. Click the Start Scanning button to inspect the computer. This will check the system for presence of malicious objects, malware, and viruses. The tool reveals items that were found linked to the ransomware and other suspicious entities. Be sure to remove all identified threats.
The above procedures should have totally eliminated the ransomware. However, if you found that there are still remnants of the virus, please proceed to succeeding procedures below.
Stage 4 : Double-check with Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool
1. Download the free scanner called Malicious Software Removal Tool.
2. The tool automatically checks the operating system and suggest appropriate download version. Click on Download button to begin. Save the file to a convenient location, preferably on Desktop.
3. After downloading the file, Windows will prompt that download has completed. Click Run to start scanning the computer. Another option is to browse the location folder and double click on the file to run.
4. The tool will display Welcome screen, click Next. Please note the message “This tool is not a replacement for an antivirus product.” You must understand that this program is made specifically to find and remove malware, viruses, Trojans, and other harmful elements on the computer. It was not designed to protect the computer.
5. Next, you will see Scan Type. Please choose Full Scan to ensure that all ransom virus entities and other harmful files left on the computer will be found and removed. For advanced computer user, you can opt for Customized Scan, if there are other drives or folders you wanted to include in this scan.
6. Full scan may take a while, please wait for Malicious Software Removal Tool to complete the tasks. However, you may cancel the scan anytime by clicking on the Cancel button.
7. After scanning, the tool will reveal all identified threats. There may be other threats that our first scan fails to detect. Please remove/delete all detected items.
8. When removal procedure is complete, you may now close Malicious Software Removal Tool. We hope that ransomware have been completely deleted from the computer. Please restart Windows to proceed with the normal operation.
Recover Files from Ransomware Infection
Decrypting infected files with Emsisoft Tools
This service from Emsisoft is helpful in unlocking encrypted files without paying the ransom. It gives three ways to detect the ransomware and provide suitable recovery method:
Upload ransom note – This is usually the .txt or .hta files that was generated by the ransomware.
Upload the encrypted file – The actual encrypted file. Choose the one that is less than 8MB in size.
Contact information – Enter the email address or any links provided as it appears in the ransom note.
After submitting any of the appropriate data, Emsisoft will attempt to identify the ransomware and provide keys if there are available.
Option 1: Windows Previous Version Tool
Windows Vista and Windows 7 have a feature called Previous Versions. However, this tool is only usable if restore point was made prior to ransomware infection. To use this tool as “recovery option” for files encypted by the ransomware virus, please follow these steps:
1. Open My Computer or Windows Explorer.
2. Right-click on the affected files or folders. From the drop-down list, please click on Restore previous versions.
3. New window will open display all backup copy of files and folders you wanted to recover. Choose the appropriate file and click on Open, Copy, or Restore. Restoring selected files overwrites the current locked files on the computer. The tool is not actually recovering files encrypted by the ransomware. Instead, it restores files from backup copy.
Option 2: Use ShadowExplorer to restore files encrypted by Ransomware
Just like Previous Version tool, ShadowExplorer is taking advantage of shadow copy created by Windows. This tool allows you to retrieve older version of files before it was encrypted by ransomware.
1. Download ShadowExplorer from the official web site.
2. Install the program with the default settings.
3. The program should run automatically after installation. If not, double-click on ShadowExplorer icon.
4. You can see the drop-down list on top of the console. Please select proper drive and the most recent point-in-time shadow copies of files you wish to restore prior to ransomware infection.
5. Right-click on the Drive, Folder, or File you wish to restore and click Export…
6. Lastly, ShadowExplorer will prompt for location where you want to save the copy of recovered files.