What Is Ransomware? A Guide to Ransomware Prevention and Removal

What Is Ransomware? A Guide to Ransomware Prevention and Removal_featurePexels

Ransomware is a type of malware that uses encryption to hold a victim’s data or device to ransom. It is a growing threat, inflicting significant damage and cost to businesses and governmental organizations. It is estimated that last year ransomware attacks cost the global economy approximately $20 billion — with an attack occurring every 11 seconds. Ransomware most often commences when a victim downloads malware through email attachments or links from unknown, malicious sources.

There are two main kinds of ransomware:

  • Blocker ransomware locks users out of computer functions.
  • Crypto ransomware encrypts critical data (documents, photos, videos etc.). Captured files will likely be deleted.

Ransomware Victims

For hackers, there are four target groups:

  1. Easy targets
    Those perceived as having basic security teams. Educational institutions are a common target in this category.
  1. High value targets
    Organizations that are willing to pay out vast sums of money to get their data back. Government agencies, banks, energy companies, and hospitals fall into this category.
  1. Sensitive data targets
    Groups that hold sensitive data, such as law firms and social media platforms, fall into this category.
  1. Average Joes
    The everyday online user is more likely to be intimidated and cave in to demands, as they have less knowledge and fewer options.

In each category, there are only three steps you can take:

  • The first is to pay the ransom. Experts advise not doing so because the attackers will not bother to unlock your device or data anyway.
  • The best option is to try and remove the ransomware from your computer.
  • Failing that you will need to reset your computer to factory settings, purging everything. For this reason, it is crucial to back-up data.

Ransomware Prevention

First things first, you’ll want to have good cybersecurity installed. Trend Micro™ Maximum Security is our premium cybersecurity product and will thoroughly protect you against ransomware and other malware threats. Maximum Security utilizes cloud-based AI technology to deliver a proactive defense against ever-evolving malware threats. Furthermore, its enhanced Folder Shield safeguards your valuable files and digital assets both locally and on the cloud.

In terms of what you can do, follow these guidelines to help prevent ransomware in the first place.

Emails

  • Scan email attachments for malware.
  • Avoid opening executable files included as attachments.
  • Regularly update email apps — as well as browsers and operating systems.
  • Double-check the sender’s name to confirm that an email is from a legitimate source.
  • Beware of signs that indicate phishing, such as grammatical errors and odd domain names.

Phones & Apps

  • NEVER jailbreak phones.
  • Download apps/software from well-known, legitimate stores only, such as Google Play and the App Store.  Only verified apps should be installed.
  • Review the app before you install. Check reviews and requested permissions.
  • When using public Wi-Fi, use a VPN like VPN Proxy One Pro.
  • Keep apps and operating systems updated.

Ransomware Removal

In the event of suspected malware, follow these ransomware removal steps:

  • Disconnect your device from the internet. Do this by disabling Wi-Fi on your device.
  • Restart your computer in Safe Mode. This lets it use only the most essential apps.
  • Look for any suspicious apps and remove them. See something you don’t recognize? Best to uninstall.
  • A good virus scanner should resolve and remove the issue. If you don’t want to pay, Trend Micro’s HouseCall for Home Networks is an effective FREE scan & fix product.
  • Follow the scan with a Restore action to your device’s default settings. (You should frequently back up data and create “restore points”.)
  • If none of the above have worked, your only remaining option (barring a professional service) is to perform a full System Reset. Be aware though, that this will delete all personal data, settings and files.

Ten Ransomware Dos and Don’ts

  1. Do not pay the ransom. It only encourages these attacks — there’s no guarantee your files will be released.
  2. Restore any impacted files from a trusted back-up.
  3. Do not provide personal information when answering emails, unsolicited phone calls, text or instant messages.
  4. Use antivirus software and a strong firewall.
  5. Use content scanning and filtering on your mail servers. Trend Micro Check is a good product for this.
  6. Make sure that all systems and software are up-to-date.
  7. If traveling for work, tell your IT department, especially if you’re going to be using public Wi-Fi. Be sure to connect to your company’s VPN.
  8. Be aware that exposing intellectual property is against most corporate policies.
  9. Read your company’s Acceptable Electronic Use (AEU) policy. If you’re unsure about an email’s legitimacy, contact your IT department.
  10. When backing-up to cloud services, be sure to talk to your IT department first, for a list of acceptable cloud solutions.

To end with, another good safeguard is Trend Micro™ ID Security. Often, compromised details is what precedes a malware attack. This exciting product scours the dark web for any mention of your data (SSN, email addresses, passwords, codes etc.) in the event of it being sold or maliciously shared by cybercriminals. Be safe out there, folks! We hope this article has been of use and/or interest to you. If so, please do SHARE with family and friends to help keep the online community secure — and free from ransomware.

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