What is Ransomware Attack? | Be Cautious and Shield Devices

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You must have heard or read about the massive ransomware attacks arising worldwide which is a serious terror.  Since 2016, researchers have encountered that 4,000 Ransomware attacks occur per day. The fact is, one-third of the victims pay the ransom just because they don’t know about it. In this article, we are going to inform you about what is Ransomware attack, their history, types, examples, detection, prevention, cure, and all relevant information.

What is Ransomware Attack

What is Meant by Ransomware Attack?

You probably are wondering what is a ransomware which is happening globally making headlines recently. Ransomware is a particularly diabolical type of malware that holds your files ransom by encrypting them until you pay their demanded money. They can get into your system by any kind of download method like apps, files, 3rd party themes, and so on.

Once your files are encrypted, they become useless to you unless you have the key. Instructions are shown to the victims on their screen to pay a reasonable fee in exchange with a decryption key. Even if you pay there is no guarantee that you will get back access to any of your information.

First Ransomware Attack in the World

The first-ever ransomware attack was detected in December 1989.  Joseph L Popp, a Harvard-trained biologist, was attending a conference on AIDS. He prepared 20k discs for delegates of the healthcare industry, which he named ‘AIDS Information – Introductory Diskettes’.

These discs contained malware that remained hidden on the unsuspecting victim computers. These kickstarted into life and started encryption after 90 reboots. An instruction was shown to users that claimed $189 to be sent to a PO Box in Panama in exchange for the normal system operation. This ransomware is known as AIDS Trojan, also PS Cyborg.

As Popp had poor mental health, he was arrested but did not face any trial. His sickness was so absurd that he began wearing a cardboard box on the head as protection against radiation. But he promised that he will donate the profits to fund AIDs research.

How Do You Get Infected by Ransomware?

They spread via spam or phishing emails, misleading links, fake software updates, and exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers and popular software. Once they are downloaded and open, they take over the user’s computer.

How Does a Ransomware Attack Work?

So, how does ransomware infect your system so easily?  The cybercriminals use software tools with particular capabilities. They use this manipulated software to get ransom paid to their bitcoin accounts. Ransomware demand can range from a hundred dollars to thousands.

They lock the operating system and start encrypting some of your important files which can only be decrypted with a key known only by the criminal. Then the victim is notified by a popup message explaining that this situation can only be resolved by sending a bitcoin payment which is untraceable in exchange for giving control of the system back.

Some of the ransomware will try to fool you by displaying a threatening message pretending to be from the police agency saying your computer was used for something highly illegal and you have to pay a few hundred dollars fine to get back your files.

Targets of Ransomware Attacks

So, who is the target of the ransomware attack? The proper answer is anyone can be the victim. This depends on how much attractive your data is to the criminal hackers, how weak is your security system, and how important is the file that you respond quickly to the demand.

The top target of ransomware attacks is academic organizations, government agencies, human resource departments, or healthcare organizations that have critical data, weak internet security, and enough money to pay for it.

Types of the Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attackers can approach you in many ways. The common types of ransomware found so far are discussed below.

1. Lockers Ransomware

This type of ransomware simply blocks your access to the operating system. It may leave you with only one channel of communication, that is with the attacker. It does not encrypt files. They demand money from you to unlock your device.

2. Crypto Ransomware

This encrypts your documents and files and there is no way to get them back if you don’t have any backup. The cyberthieves conduct this to make a profit by demanding a ransom to get back the files.

3. Scareware

This malware pretends as an anti-virus or cleaning tool. It claims to have detected serious problems on your device. Then they demand money to resolve the issues found. They often lock the device and some just bother you with popup messages.

4. Doxware

This is similar to crypto-ransomware. The only difference is that they target your private photos, conversations, or any type of file and threatens to release them unless you pay money.

Latest Ransomware Attacks

Ryuk

It spread in august 2018. Ryuk disables the Windows system restore option. It becomes impossible to get back files if there are no backups. This hit more than 500 schools and was most active in 2019.

WannaCry

In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack became the headline of 150 countries of the world. United States National Security Agency created this and the Shadow broker group leaked this. Globally 230,000 computers became the victim of WannaCry.

It targeted the computers with Microsoft Windows operating system which is weak and outdated. It is an example of crypto-ransomware which spread without any user interaction. It is the biggest attack seen so far in history.

Bad Rabbit

Bad rabbits used insecure websites to attack in 2017. Victims got infected by clicking ‘download’ something malware in disguise. 

Locky

Locky appeared in 2016 with the ability to encrypt 160 types of files. Victims were tricked to install this through infected attachments via emails.

Jigsaw

The Jigsaw was released in 2016. It used an image of the puppet from the movie ‘SAW’. The profit was not that good as they deleted more of the victims’ files every hour.

Troldesh

It is a 2015 ransomware. The attacker of Troldesh connected with users directly over email and claimed ransom. Some of them even negotiated over discounts.

CryptoLocker

It encrypts files using file extensions. The hacker then offers an exchange of money to get a private key. This type of ransom was first detected in 2013. Before this was shut down, they got $3 million ransom.

CryLocker

Here the hacker tries to gain the trust of the user by offering a free single-use key for one file only. The attack first appeared in 2014.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Prevention is always proved to be better than cure. Now real question is, how to avoid ransomware attacks?  To avoid ransomware in the future few preventative measures are given below

  1. Try to employ an external data backup and recovery plan for all your crucial information frequently and automatically. The backups should be isolated from the network as network-connected data can also be infected.
  2. Your operating system should be patched and up-to-date. So, the attackers will not find to exploit any vulnerabilities. Always ensure your operating system and software are patched with the latest updates.
  3. Only try to download files from trusted and verified websites.
  4. You should never connect your device with any unfamiliar USBs or other removable storage devices. Always scan your USBs to insert.
  5. Most important is that, if you are asked for giving out your data by any suspicious source, never leak any of the information that they can use in the future to lure you.
  6. Your system is more vulnerable to attack if you are connected to Wi-Fi. So, try to use a secure VPN for confidential transactions.
  7. Scan all your downloads with up-to-date antivirus software.
  8. Avoid installing unknown and unpopular software and giving them any administrative privilege.
  9.  To protect your data, use trusted security software and keep them up to date.
  10. Unfamiliar and untrusted sources send email to for delivering ransom malware. So, avoid opening this type of emails containing suspicious attachments and avoid enabling macros. For this, you can use mail server content scanning and filtering.  
  11. Try to limit users’ ability to install and run random applications.
  12.  Do not ever follow any suspicious web links.
  13. You can use cloud services as they help to mitigate infection with previous versions of files.
  14. Strictly enforce limits on who and when can access your data.
  15. Try to use a strong and unique password everywhere.

How to Know if Your System is Infected by Ransomware?

Your web browser or system will be locked with a message on-screen containing information about how to pay them. Or you will find a ransom note on your file directories which is generally a .txt file. All of your files will have absurd and new extensions and will seem like a shortcut file.

For example, if you are infected by the most devastating WannaCry Ransomware attack, then you will see something like this:

How to Know If Your System Is Infected 1
How to Know If Your System Is Infected 2

Should You Pay the Ransom?

If you are sure you are infected with ransomware, never pay the money. Paying the ransom does not assure you that they will restore your access as they are the criminals after all. It also encourages its business giving them funds for future attacks. 

How to Remove Ransomware From Windows 10?

If you have already become the victim, isolate the computer, and never pay the money. Now, to recover your system from a ransom attack follow the steps below which will take 4 and a half hours manually:

  • Firstly, reboot your windows 10 in a safe mood which is not that simple. We need a safe mode to install some antivirus to scan your computer and remove ransomware. But this will not decrypt your files, you will still need backups to get your files back.

For this first hold down the ‘shift’ key and press restart.

How to Remove Ransomware From windows10 1
  • Next click on ‘Troubleshoot’> ‘Advanced Options’ > ‘startup settings’ > ’Restart’. After these steps, your computer will go to a selective boot mode. Once it boots out of BIOS and comes back in, you will see a list of things.
Restart 1
Restart 2
Restart 3
Restart 4
Restart 5
  • To get to the safe mode press ‘F4’ once the startup settings come up.
press ‘F4’
  • Then install antivirus software like malware bytes or hitman pro or any software from any trusted source. Also, get it updated.
  • Scan your system using that anti-malware. Then find out the ransomware and remove it. If it will require a reboot into safe mode again, follow step 1 again.
follow step 1 again
  • Restore your pc to the previous state by  
  • Right click on start> System > System Protection> System restore.
System restore 1
System restore 2
  • If you have an automatic restore point from before attack, then go ahead and hit yes and wait until your system is restored.
System restore 3
  • After restoring, you will have a black background as all your files will be gone. Then connected the storage device that contains your backup files. Then right-click on start > control panel> System and Security> backup and restore.
backup and restore 1
backup and restore 2
backup and restore 3

After going through a few more steps this will restore your back up files stored in an external device.

backup and restore 4
backup and restore 5
backup and restore 6
backup and restore 7
backup and restore 8

If you don’t have any backup, then you are out of luck. Find out which type of ransomware it is and look for a decryption tool that has been cracked by researchers if the file is very important to you.

Ransomware Attack on Mobile Phone

In the case of mobile ransomware, a message is displayed demanding a fee due to illegal activities and the device is locked. Mobile phones get infected via malicious apps. To restore access, you have to boot your phone to a safe mood and then delete the app.

Final Thoughts

If you have not taken this matter seriously, one a regular day when you log in to your pc, you may find it locked and your critical documents encrypted. A weird message will be shown on the display demanding money. It is the moment at which every user panic, Ransomware Attack.

In this context, we gathered up some information to help you to learn what is ransomware attack, their types, latest attacks, their prevention, removal, etc. By going through this article, take the required precautions to make your data safe.

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