Cybercriminals are constantly looking for an easy payday. Ransomware has become a choice tool for them recently. With this sinister tool, criminals have discovered a relatively simple pay out by holding people’s computer hostage. What is ransomware and how can you get rid of it, or prevent it?
What is Ransomware: More Than Just Scareware!
Ransomware is defined as a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Earlier versions only required users to fill out a survey, but since greed is the driving force for almost all criminals, money has become the primary demand. The way ransomware works is surprisingly simple. A website is infected with a virus that downloads itself onto a visitors’ computer. The virus causes a popup window to display stating that the user has broken a law and because of this the computer will be locked until payment of a fine is received. Generally, a countdown will begin and when the clock reaches zero, the computer’s files are encrypted or even access to the machine itself is locked.
If you receive a popup window like this while surfing the web that claims to be from an important entity like the local police, FBI, or even the manufacturer of your computer: STOP! Do not click “Okay”, do not call the number, do not enter a verification code. Clicking “Cancel” will not help: you’re stuck, right? WRONG!
There is a way out. Seriously.
Here’s What You Can Do
If you find yourself in this situation, immediately power down your machine by pressing the power button until the unit ceases to run. Yes, this is hard on your machine, but hopefully you don’t do it often. Wait 30 seconds or so to catch your breath. Get a cup of coffee, whatever. Turn your machine back on and your browser will automatically display itself. If it doesn’t, go ahead and open it. The good thing about browsers these days is that they detect a “dirty” shutdown. It will ask you if you want to restore your previous session. Either choose “No” or click the “X” to deny the request to restore and then close your browser. You should be free of the criminals cyber-grip because you cut off access to the machine and hopefully the virus’ code did not have enough time to execute in it’s entirety. This is how I escaped ransomware on two separate occasions.
A Good Anti-Virus Program Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
Finally, run a scan with your antivirus/malware scanner and when that is finished, your computer should be clean of any threats. The best way to prevent these attacks, and most others, is to keep a decent, up-to-date antivirus program on your machine AT ALL TIMES. There are plenty of free ones on the web like ZoneAlarm, Avast, AVG, Comodo, and ClamAV. I prefer ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall. It costs nothing and really does the job it was designed to do. I did switch to the paid version some time ago, but it actually performed much poorer than it’s free counterpart. I also recommend installing MalwareBytes in addition to a good antivirus program as well as Ccleaner for a good clean-up utility.
Cybercriminals Rely on User Ignorance.
Ransomware is a good example of this fact. Don’t let these creeps take your security away from you. If you even think your system has been compromised, scan it. Feel free to send me a message if you have the need to talk about it and maybe I can help. If the solution that I outlined here doesn’t help, try this article at PC World.