How to Recover Your Data If You Have Been Hit By Ransomware
Ransomware is, without a doubt, one of the worst types of malicious software out there. When you have been impacted by ransomware, files on your computer will be completely locked off. Here, we want to talk to you a little bit about what ransomware is, while at the same time providing you with information on how you can recover your data should you have been impacted by ransomware.
What is Ransomware?
You can think of ransomware as similar to a virus or malware, although it is not completely the same. With ransomware, a small piece of software will be installed on your computer. This software will then target specific files and make it impossible for you to open them or edit them. In most cases, the ransomware will ask you to make a payment in order to unlock the file.
There are some pieces of ransomware which do not look any particular files but instead display images, often of a pornographic nature on your computer. The sheer embarrassment of having those images on your computer would be enough to trigger you to pay. Well, at least in the eyes of the ransomware company.
Finally; you can also get mobile ransomware. It is unlikely that mobile ransomware would ever block the files on your phone or tablet device. This is because of the wonders of cloud storage. If the files do get blocked, then somebody could easily overwrite the files from their computer, and they are done without making a payment. For this reason, many of the ransomware companies out there that develop malicious software for phones will, instead, lock the operating system. It is much easier for them to do that, and it is much tougher for you to break this lock, even if you wanted to.
How to Avoid Ransomware
Of course, if you wish to tackle ransomware on your computer, then the best bet is for you to probably avoid ransomware in the first place. We are not going to give you a complete guide on how to do that here, mainly because this would be rather pointless. We do want to share a couple of tips which should, hopefully, put you in good stead, however:
– Make sure that you never download any software which you do not know the origin of. This means that you should not click any random links online. If a link looks suspicious, then go somewhere else.
– Do not click any links in emails unless you are 100% sure of the source. Now, it may be worth pointing out at this stage that there are some emails which can be spoofed, e.g., the big payment processors have their emails spoofed all the time. We are not going to give you a complete guide on how to avoid these spoofed emails, there is a lot of information out there, but you should absolutely consider checking all emails over before you even so much as click a link.
– If you use social media or any IM program, e.g., Skype or Facebook, then do not click any links that you find in there.
– Do not click ‘accept’ on any random pop-ups on your web browser.
If you do most of this, and you have a quality malware blocking system in place, then the vast majority of the threats that you could possibly encounter online are going to be avoided. Remember; the whole thing about ransomware is that they tend to pray on the most vulnerable of people, i.e., those who are not willing to take precautions to protect themselves, mostly because these are the same people that are most likely to fork over their cash.
It is important to note that it is unlikely that you will be able to eliminate absolutely every chance of there being a ransomware attack on your computer. You will be able to eliminate most of them, but this is an ‘industry’ that moves so rapidly that you will not be able to get rid of everything, sadly. This is why you may need the tips that you find on this page sooner as opposed to later.
Keep Your Malware Detection Software Up to Date
The wonderful thing about ransomware (well, as wonderful as it could be), is the fact that it is very tough to write. Most of the ransomware which tends to pop up will be a variation of ransomware that has come before it, maybe with a few code snippets changed. This makes it incredibly simple for malware detection software to stay ‘on top’ of things and ensure that they are always able to track down any malware which may slip through the cracks. This means that you should always make sure of the following:
– That the antimalware software that you have selected is decent. Yes, even free anti-malware software can be of a high quality, you just need to make sure that you get it from the right place.
– The software that you select needs to be kept up to date. At the minimum, you should be giving it an update once a week (turn on automatic updates), but some systems may release a new update every day or so. Remember; the world of malware changes very, very quickly.
The whole idea behind ransomware is to encourage you to pay to unlock the locked files. You will be given a phone number that you need to call.
Under absolutely no circumstance should you ever call the phone number, let alone pay anything. Chances are, even though you have paid money to have the files unlocked, they are not going to be unlocked. You will have been scammed out of your cash. You will also have just told a proven scammer, on the telephone, your card number.
In some cases, you will be asked to type your card details into the software, or maybe send a PayPal payment to some number somewhere. Again, under no circumstance should you do this. Somebody is going to end up stealing your details. You have also demonstrated that you are ripe for being scammed in the future. After all; the easiest people to scam are those who have been scammed once already. It demonstrates to the scammers that these people are very naïve in the way in which they act online, and you really do not want to fall into that trap!
Not everything asking you to pay is ransomware
This is something that is remarkably important to remember; not everything that asks you to pay is ransomware.
If you are browsing the internet, then you are bound to get a couple of pop up ads on occasion which tell you that you need to pay or your computer will be shut down or something similar to that. It is safe to ignore these. You may also wish to check that your ad blocker is working properly, and maybe give yourself a quick scan for malware if it is happening too often.
If the pop-up does not seem to have a close button, then do not fret too much. We are going to assume that you are using Windows here. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL together. Then click the button that says ‘task manager’. This will open up a list of all the windows that are currently running on your computer. Find the offending window in the list, right-click the ‘close window’. This should get rid of the problem right away.
In some cases, there will be a little button that pops up on the window as you try to close it, although this is going to be dependent on the browser that you are using. There will be a checkbox that says “stop this window from showing additional dialogs’. Although, the words may be different dependent on your browser. Click this, then the OK button and the window should close down.
Make a note of the website that you visited in order to trigger this pop-up window. This way you can make sure that you avoid it in the future!
You may not be able to unencrypt all information
Sadly, some ransomware has been so poorly designed that it may be impossible for you to obtain all the information that has been locked away. This is why it is so important that you keep regular backups of all of your most important files. This means keeping them stored away from your computer, mostly because ransomware has been designed to target very specific files. Thankfully, cloud storage is now cheaper than ever. In fact, you may be able to get a limited amount of cloud storage 100% for free, so make sure that you take advantage of this. It may be just what saves you should your files end up being encrypted by some random piece of software online.
You may also wish to avoid storing sensitive data on your computer, i.e., do not store your credit card details or bank information in a file. You just know that somebody is going to end up taking it from you!
In many cases, if you keep backups then you will never need to unencrypt information, mostly because you can drag the old file on top of the encrypted file and it will replace it. However; you should only do this once you have scanned your computer for malware and you can be 100% sure that there is nothing lurking on your computer which may be posing a risk to you!
Identify the Threat
Thankfully, with ransomware, this is going to be incredibly easy to determine. In most cases, you will be told exactly what the threat is. You Google this information and you will be given plenty of information on how you can unencrypt the information.
The problem that you are going to face when you have ransomware is the fact that each and every piece of ransomware will need a different piece of software to unlock. There is no single piece of software that will do everything. In some cases, code which is very similar may be unlocked by an encryption software that deals with ransomware of a similar ‘strain’. But, if you want to ensure the greatest chance of success in removing the encryption, then you should ensure that you choose software that is absolutely perfect for whatever malware you have on your computer.
If you are unsure as to which ‘strain’ of ransomware you have on your computer, there are a couple of tools online that you will be able to use which will help you to determine what the issue is. However, for the most part, you will be told exactly what is blocking your computer which really is going to make it easy for you.
Use the Software
Make sure that any software that you are using to eliminate the threat comes from a reputable website. The last thing you want is to have more malware on your computer. You should have antimalware software on your computer at this point, so if you do need to download any software which has been designed to help you out, then you may want to give it a quick scan to be sure that it is going to do exactly what it says on the tin. It will provide you with a little bit of protection and peace of mind!
Once you know that everything is ‘above board’, then just run the software and let it do its work. It may ask you which files you want to encrypt. Remember; you should not uninstall the software at the moment. You never know when you are going to stumble across a random file which you had missed previously.
There are some pieces of software which will unlock all of your files at once but, honestly, it is best that you keep the software on your computer ‘just in case’ you need to use it in the future.