What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of Ransomware?
A couple of days ago, we featured a great article about ransomware by our friends at Emsisoft. It’s a great reference for anyone who has to deal with the woes of ransomware.
But as good as Emsisoft’s advice is, we have something more to add and some advice for you.
Ransomware is like cancer. Once you get it, it’s not so easy to get rid of it. The best way to deal with cancer is not to get it in the first place – but we all know, all too well, that that is easier said than done.
We know that comparing ransomware to cancer is a bit over-the-top, we are doing it to make a point:
The best way to deal with ransomware is not to get it in the first place. And keeping yourself safe from ransomware is something you can, in many ways control.
Ransomware is now the biggest threat you face. Back in the 1990’s viruses and Trojans were the big threats. In the early 2000’s, it was spyware, but soon malware became an all-encompassing term for viruses, rootkits, Trojans, spyware, PUPs, etc. Ransomware is also malware – and it’s at the top of the list because of the damage and financial losses it causes.
We’re living in an age where the miscreants, hackers, and criminals that target our computers, are becoming much more sophisticated. Most ransomware is spread by spam and phishing emails. And, unlike the old Nigerian Prince emails of the past, you can no longer tell spam mail because of ridiculously flawed spelling or grammar. The criminals who spread ransomware – and who are now making millions of dollars doing it – are more sophisticated. While it’s true that most spam and phishing emails are sent from developing nations, many times they’re written in nearly perfect English.
Ransomware is spreading wildly not only because of the sophistication of the miscreants who propagate it, but because of the wall of anonymity they can hide behind because of things like Bitcoin and encryption. When ransoms are collected in Bitcoin (Bitcoin is a cyptocurrency. Learn more about it here), it’s nearly impossible to trace the payment back to the criminal. This makes the chances of catching the villains who distribute ransomware, very slim. And that makes it a very attractive and easy way for criminals to make a great deal of money with very little risk of getting caught.
If your computer becomes infected with ransomware, some or all of your personal files will be encrypted… and you won’t be able to access them without the encryption key. The criminals who distribute ransomware, will provide you the correct key to decrypt your files, for a price. The average price charged is approximately $300 (USD). If you don’t pay the ransom, you will to be able to access personal files such as pictures, documents, music, etc. Even if you have backups in Dropbox, OneDrive or on external drives, the files you have backed up may also be encrypted.
There is no one way that will keep you 100% safe from ransomware, but if you follow some simple guidelines, your changes of every being infected with ransomware will be very small… and they’re not that hard to do.
- NEVER open attachments in email. Not even if you think you know who sent it. If someone wants to send you an attachment by email, make arrangements with them before hand – so you’re expecting it and you know what it is they’re sending.
- NEVER click links in email unless you are sure who sent the email. Don’t assume if you get an email from uncle Larry that it’s really from uncle Larry. If it seems odd or unlike something you normally receive from him… be wary. His email address may have been compromised and he is not even aware that the mail was sent. It’s easy to forge email addresses and headers. If you’re not sure. who sent an MAKE SURE. If you’re not sure, it only takes a minute to write the sender and ask – or if they’re a friend of yours, call and ask them.
- ALWAYS make sure you’re using a top-rated antivirus/anti-malware like Emsisoft. One than can help protect you from many of more prevalent ransomware. No software can ever keep you 100% safe from 100% of all threats, because hundreds, even thousands of new, perhaps more sophisticated malware/ransomware appear every day. With millions of dollars in profits awaiting distributors of ransomware, a lot of new miscreants get in the game every day.
- NEVER use outdated operating systems or outdated browsers. Always keep your browsers and email programs updated. Never use outdated version of Adobe Flash. Be careful when installing browser add-ons. Always keeps you add-ons up-to-date. If you’re using Windows XP or Windows Vista, you’re vulnerable. If you’re using a browser that is not updated, your vulnerable. Don’t install any browser add-ons or plug-ins you really don’t need.
- NEVER visit sites where porn, illegal software, or software “cracks” are distributed. These sites are rife with scripts and potential drive-by-downloads… not to mention poisoned links and advertisements. Steer clear of the back alleys of the Internet.
- ALWAYS try to keep one back up of your personal files that is on media that’s not constantly attached to your computer. Dropbox, OneDrive, iDrive and external drives are great for keeping backups, but if you become infected with ransomware, it’s highly likely that files you have stored in the cloud and/or on external drives which are plugged into your computer at the time of infection, will be infected as well. Keep several USB flash drives handy, and every week backup your personal files – then unplug the USB(s) from your computer.
- ALWAYS use common sense.
- ALWAYS THINK before you click.
If you follow these suggestions, your chances of getting ransomware will be much less than average.
The best way to get rid of ransomware, isn’t to follow complicated removal instructions, or trying to find the right decryptor, or paying a ransom to the criminals who hold your files hostage. The best way to get rid of ransomware is to not get it in the first place.