Summarily, ransomware, also known as scareware or rogueware, refers to the category of malicious software that limits and/or prevents access of individuals/ organizations to their data/ information until a ransom is paid. In addition, these malware attackers also threaten to publicize a victim’s confidential data/ information until certain demands, usually of a monetary nature, are met. Ransomware usually involves the encryption of a victim’s data which results in the computer being locked until a certain amount of money is paid to the attackers in order to get a decryption key. Ransomware does not attack computers alone; mobile phones have also been known to be infected too. There are different strains of ransomware. Examples of these types of malware include WannaCry, Petya, CryptoWall, CryptoLocker, Golden Eye, Reveton, Locky, Crysis and HydraCrypt.
Ransomware infestation is known to be propagated either through the deployment of computer worms that are capable of recreating automatically or by the victims individually downloading the infected files unknowingly. As to be expected of such attacks, the effects are far-reaching and degenerating. Production can be completely halted in manufacturing industries, while hospitals may have their operations disrupted in the cases of ransomware attacks.
The major characteristics of ransomware include;
- Display of a notification message to inform the victim of the attack. This notification also demands for payment usually in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in order for the victim to regain access of the jeopardized data followed by threats of unredeemable loss as consequences of failure to comply.
- Time-limit for payment of the ransom after which a threat of permanent data/ information loss is implied.
- Ability of the malware to recreate and spread itself throughout other systems in the network as characterized by computer worms.
- Potential to encrypt all types of data in order to impede readability and also to lock down systems and hinder access.
- Utilization of evasion techniques to prevent detection by a number of Antivirus/ Antimalware or security software apps.
Ransomware attacks can be prevented by;
- Periodically backing up important information;
- Installing highly effective/ functional antivirus/ antimalware and system security apps that monitor computer operations and protect the system from attacks;
- Installing pop-up blockers to help minimize the risk of malware infestation;
- Regularly updating operating systems and software applications and also;
- Refraining from clicking suspicious links embedded online or downloading questionable and unverifiable files.
Since the advent of ransomware attacks, security experts and software developers have battled continuously with this threat in order to arrive at an effective resolution. Nevertheless, it is very recommendable and more profitable to prevent and forestall these malware attacks than to attempt to resolve them.
Besides attempting to restart and refresh the computer system in the Safe Mode or repairing, resetting and/or restoring to an earlier functional setting/ System Restore Point to combat the menace of ransomware, there are also a number of Anti-Ransomware software and Toolkits that have been developed to significantly remove ransomware from computer systems without having to pay for the ransom or use decryption keys. Some major methods of removing these malicious software include the use of the Bitdefender Ransomware Removal Tool; Avast Anti-Ransomware Tool; AVG Ransomware Decryption Tool; Kapersky Lab Decryptor; and also the Trend Micro Lock Screen Ransomware Removal Tool.
These tools help to provide crucial protection from ransomware through the restriction of access to pages, emails and files with high vulnerabilities and probabilities of malicious content