It's one of the most common and frustrating malwares. It employs a number of methods to scam you out of money. A report from Trustwave estimated that a cyber-criminal using ransomware can steal up to $90,000 a month with startup costs of about $5,900.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware basically holds your data to ransom until money is paid to the cyber-criminal who infected your computer. They sometimes simply place an overlay over your screen demanding payment. Other more complex versions encrypt or scramble all your computer data and only reverse it when a ransome has been paid. The ransomware often tries to look like it originated from an official authority such as the police or government. Claiming that the user has done something illegal online and the users computer is locked until they pay the fine.
There are 3 main types of ransomware:
- Scareware is adware that claims your system is infected and demands payment to fix the problems
- Lockscreen prevents you from using your pc until a fee has been paid.
- Encrypting malware is the trickiest, it encrypts your files only decrypting them when you pay a certain amount
How does Ransomware reach you computer?
It uses the same methods as other malware, it could arrive as a trojan. A file hidden amongst numerous other during the download of a new programme. Direct download through a phishing attempt such as emails claiming that your software is out of date and needs to be updated but the download is really an infected file.
How to remove it?
In the worst case your data could be lost, it's one of the reasons it's important to back up your files. But many versions of ransomware can be removed by your anti-virus without losing your files. If the version of ransomware has your computer locked then using system restore if the best option. System restore sets back the clock restoring your computer to an early point, hopefully one before the ransomware was installed.
Do not pay the fine! It's obviously an illegal scam and those who pay the fines only encourage cyber-criminal to continue using such methods.
How to avoid catching it again
Don't click on banners or links without knowing their origin. Don't install unknown or untrusted software and be skeptical. If something seems unusual such as a notification telling you to download something, do some research first to make sure it is genuine. A good anti-virus is also necassary as it should be able to detect most types of ransomware and warn your before downloading them or isolate them before the affect your computer.
ZenMate is also a useful addition to your security. It hides your IP and encrypts your internet traffic adding an extra layer of security.