Ransomware attack

Ransom demand

You’re browsing on the internet and, suddenly, your screen fills with a ‘popup’ message, ‘your computer is locked’. The message will be specific, some even claim to be representing the FBI or police.

They suggest that you have contravened a law to frighten you into submission.

You are supposed to think that if you send them money they will unlock your computer.

None of these authorities would ask for money or behave in this way.

The plan is that you pay money as either, cash or one of the cybercurrencies, one being ‘Bitcoins’, to their account.

The story will be ‘your computer will be unlocked after you’ve paid’. What ever you do, don’t pay it.

Ransomware attacks are one of the fastest-growing threats when we go online. Businesses are the big-money targets with demands amounting to thousands of Pounds/Dollars. Individuals receive demands of a few hundreds.

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Microsoft Windows most at risk.

The most vulnerable are those using Microsoft’s Windows, because there are more Windows operating systems in use than any other. Windows has a central registry which is easily accessed by malware. This is where the damage is done to take over and lock down the whole computer.

Apple Mac users at risk.

Apple Mac have been immune until recently. Trojan malware arrive on Mac computers when downloading other software and hide for a few days without being detected. It will ‘come alive’ and, when online, will form connections over the web that will enable it to lock down the computer through the browser.

Linux can beat it.

The only operating system that stands up to it is Linux. Because few people use Linux and there are so many different versions, there is little value in attacking this system.

TVs also targeted. Download an App from an unknown source, you risk lock-down. Stick to well known Apps like Google Play.

What to do if you get hit.

If you’re faced with a locked screen, don’t panic! It’s possible to get rid of the popup by continually trying to shut it down. Every time you shut it down it will pop back up again but do this 100 times it may go. Then go through a deep, virus clean-up of the computer to get rid of what ever is left. Give it a go,better than panicking.

For Windows, go into ‘Safe mode’

For Windows, disconnect the power supply to shut down the computer. Press the start button and while it’s starting hold down the F8 key. This will bring up a black screen with white text. Here you will be offered options for troubleshooting problems.

Safe Mode menu
In this example the Safe Mode option is selected.

If this doesn’t show, shut down and try again but instead of holding down the F8 key, press it repeatedly as the computer is starting. Select ‘Safe Mode’ and be guided by helpful videos on YouTube, search ‘ransomware removal’. There are plenty of ideas here. This will involve leading you into the registry area where you will be guided to removing certain folders and files.

Be very careful in here because it is possible to make mistakes, follow the instructions closely.

There is advice available

Get advice from online security firms who provide ransomware decryption tools. Try Kapersky and Bitcryptor who specialise in cleaning computers of virus and trojan infections. Access these through a separate device, mobile or tablet, to see the options.

Hopefully, after all this, you will clear out the problem and it won’t have cost you anything except time.

It’s good practice to store all of your data on a remote hard-drive and ‘backup’ regularly. When you do the actual backing up, disconnect from the internet so that files in the backup drive don’t risk being infected. If you do this, you data will be safe and all you need to do is either clean your computer or acquire another.

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

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