What is Ransomware?

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There are many types of computer viruses out there, and ransomware might seem like one of the scariest ones. It locks up your browser or screen and demands real money to give you control over your computer again. What is ransomware though?

Two types of ransomware exist; lockscreen ransomware and encryption ransomware. Lockscreen ransomware do just what they sound like: lock your screen. They often pretend to be from your local police, or the FBI. They often tell you you’ve committed a cyber-crime, and you need to pay a fine in order to not be prosecuted for it. Sometimes they will gain control of your webcam and show your IP address to scare you into a paying the fine. You should never pay these fines, as these kinds are somewhat easy to remove.

Lockscreen, as well as all ransomware, will ask for money in the form of Moneypak or Bitcoin, or other cyber-currency. The reason for this is that it’s harder to track than credit cards, and therefore harder to get your money back.

Encryption ransomware depends on other scare tactics to get you to pay. They encrypt important files, meaning you can no longer access them, and demand money to get your files back. Some have a timer that counts down to when they will destroy the encrypted files. These ones are harder to remove, because while you can remove the malicious program itself, your files will still be encrypted. Some actually stay true to their word and decrypt your files and remove itself when you pay the fine. So sometimes it is safer to actually appease the virus and pay the fine then to try to decrypt your own files.

There are also ransomware that infect Android phones, which are lockscreen ransomware and perform in the same way as the ones on the computer. Since Android phones are capable of downloading applications from 3rd party sources (NOT the Google play store) this puts them on a greater risk for malware infection.

Warning: Do not attempt to remove the virus by yourself if you are not comfortable in technology. Take your computer to an IT guy or computer repair shop. This method is only what I have found to work through my research.

(THESE ARE FOR WINDOWS COMPUTERS!) To remove lockscreen ransomware is quite simple. You have to have an antivirus on your computer. First, restart your computer completely. As you start seeing things on the screen, press F8 over and over until you see options for restarting your computer. Then, select “Safe mode with networking”. Here you can run your antivirus and it will remove the malicious program. Another way is to do the same thing, except choose “repair your computer”. When you get to that window, do a system restore to an earlier date. If all else fails, find your Windows disc and repair your computer from there.

To avoid ransomware is just being safe on the internet. Don’t download anything from an unknown source, or from a freeware site like Cnet or Brothersoft. Don’t open any emails claiming to be from the authorities and don’t click unknown links from people you don’t know. If you exercise responsibility on the internet, you’re unlikely to get any virus at all.

UPDATE 2/10/17: There has recently been a story on Channel 6 News that a local food bank and the city of Troy was targeted by ransomware. They shared tips to avoid ransomware, and what to do if you are infected. They suggested to call the police if you are infected, and ABSOLUTELY don’t pay the fine.

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