You may have heard of the term ransomware in recent months. Ransomware attacks have been rising at an alarming pace, and many computer users have been infected with frustrating ransomware problems. But what is ransomware? And what can the average PC user do to fix their PC after being attacked by ransomware? Keep reading to find out!
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a new type of computer virus that basically holds your computer for ransom, hence the name ‘ransomware’. To hold your computer hostage, the ransomware will lock down all useful functions. Instead of allowing users to check their email or even open an internet browser, ransomware will prevent users from doing anything on their systems.
Once the system is locked down, ransomware might do one of several things. It could disguise itself as an antivirus program and start scanning your computer for threats. Usually, this fake antivirus software will encounter hundreds of threats – few of which actually exist. Then, in order to remove these threats (and start using your PC once more), users will have to buy the full version of the fake antivirus software, which could cost as much as $100 per month or more.
In other cases, ransomware will be less subtle about taking a computer hostage. A warning message will pop up stating that the computer has been taking hostage. The warning message will state what kind of action needs to be taken in order to regain access to the computer. In most cases, this ‘action’ will involve paying a hefty sum.
According to a report by WPTV, ransomware attacks have increased at an alarming rate in recent years. That means there has never been a more important time to educate yourself on PC security.
Why is ransomware so dangerous?
Ransomware is one of the most dangerous types of viruses in the world today – if not the most dangerous. Whether you’re a consumer or a corporate user, here are a few of the reasons why ransomware is so incredibly dangerous:
-You don’t know where your credit card information is going: In order to pay the ‘ransom’ after a ransomware infection, you’ll have to input credit card information. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine where your credit card information is going. It might be used to pay for the antivirus software, and then never used again. However, in other cases, this credit card information might be stolen by the hacker and then used against you. Soon enough, your credit cards could be maxed out and you could be facing some uncomfortable questions from your bank.
-Recurring subscription fees: Instead of taking your computer hostage just once, ransomware will often infect your system multiple times. You might need to pay a recurring monthly fee in order to use your computer, or the fee might escalate every day. Obviously, you shouldn’t be paying ransomware anything in the first place, but if you do end up paying the ransom, it won’t be cheap.
-Unable to use your computer until you pay the ransom: Obviously, the point of ransomware is to lock down the user’s computer to a point where it’s impossible to do anything except pay the ransom. That means you won’t be able to look on the internet for solutions to your problem. Instead, you’ll have to access the internet from another computer and figure out the best way to proceed.
-Your computer might not even be fixed after you pay the ransom: In some cases, the ransomware will not even release your computer after you pay the ransom. It might simply take your credit card payment and then demand more money. This is why it’s always a bad idea to give any information to a ransomware program.
How to remove ransomware
Removing ransomware might seem impossible, but it’s not. In fact, even computer users with only a basic knowledge of system security should be able to figure out how to remove a ransomware infection from their computer.
Step 1) Start your computer in safe mode by pressing F8 as the computer starts up (try doing this before the Windows splash screen appears)
Step 2) Safe mode will only load basic Windows applications and it won’t load the ransomware virus (if the ransomware virus appears in safe mode, then you might have to reformat your operating system and wipe your data using your Windows installation disk).
Step 3) From safe mode, you can try to do a number of different things. Depending on what kind of virus you have, one of the following methods should work. Try these in order to effectively remove ransomware from your system:
-Go to the add/remove programs menu and uninstall any suspicious or unfamiliar programs you encounter. In some cases, ransomware will install itself like a traditional program and that means it can be uninstalled from this menu.
-Run an antivirus scan from safe mode. Depending on which antivirus software you use, this may or may not remove ransomware.
-Perform a system restore by going to Accessories > System Tools under the ‘All programs’ menu. Hopefully, a system restore will have been created within the last few days, which means you can restore your computer to that point in time and remove the virus. This will also reverse any system changes you have made since that point, although it will not wipe your personal data.
-If none above methods fixed your PC, search for the name of your ransomware infection online and see what other users have done to fix the problem. Today, it’s extremely rare for just one computer to encounter a specific virus, and there are probably thousands of people struggling to fix the problem just like you.
If none of these solutions worked, then you might have to reformat your system in order to recover your computer. A system reformat will wipe all data from your hard drive, including your personal files, so hopefully you will have backed up your information before the ransomware attack occurred.