Got Ransomware? How to Stop This Form of Malware and Rescue Your Files

Prevent ransomware from getting onto your PC and rescue your files in case of infection

Got Ransomware? How to Stop This Form of Malware and Rescue Your Files
Image: Pixabay
January 4, 2017

Is your antivirus software up to date? If not, make sure to download that update soon; otherwise, your computer may become infected with a growing security threat known as ransomware.

Ransomware is software that encrypts your files or locks your screen until you pay its creators a fee. Encrypting a file makes it unreadable, so even if your screen does not lock, you will still not be able to use your files.

Ransomware, as well as other computer viruses, used to be used only by the people who created it. Now, however, these people are selling this malware on the black market to other criminals, who then distribute it and give them part of the profits they get as a ransom.

This new strategy is spreading ransomware faster than ever before. In addition, criminals are starting to think up more inventive ways to infect innocent users' computers: for example, one of the latest forms of ransomware masquerades as a Pokémon Go app for Windows computers.

Just as with every other kind of malware, preventing the infection is better than curing it. There are several strategies you can follow to prevent your computer from becoming infected: download software only from trusted sources; do not open any email attachments that you were not expecting to receive; question any programs that you do not remember downloading; and keep in mind that if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

Even following all of these strategies, however, is not always enough to prevent a ransomware attack. In some cases, all a user has to do is to go to a compromised website. Even so, though, there are steps you can take to prevent infections and to deal with any that get through your defenses.

  1. Back Up Your Files and Create a Rescue Disc
  2. You should already back up your data regularly even without the threat of malware infection. This will protect your files from becoming corrupted, your disks from being damaged, and your machine from being stolen or lost.

    In addition, make sure that you have downloaded all the official and most recent updates for your software. This will patch (repair) any new vulnerabilities and problems that have been discovered. Check your Windows settings to make sure that you get automatic updates, and consider installing a free software updating program to identify programs that need to be patched. Alternatively, you can check to see when new versions of your programs are available and download and install them manually.

  3. Boost Your Security
  4. Online security tools like antivirus programs are necessary to stop ransomware infections. Keep in mind, however, that some of these are more comprehensive than others.

    Premium security programs frequently include even more measures for stopping web pages from loading if they contain malicious software such as ransomware. Generous trial periods make it possible to get one year of premium antivirus protection at no charge.

  5. If Your PC Becomes Infected, Unlock Your Files

If your computer becomes infected with ransomware, your first instinct may be to pay the ransom to get your machine back up and running as quickly as possible. However, although most ransomware writers will unlock your files once you pay, there is no guarantee.

If ransomware locks your screen, try this: insert your Windows disc, then reboot the computer. Doing this should make the machine reboot from the disc rather than the hard drive. If this does not happen, press the F8 button before Windows loads and then use the BIOS menu to change the boot order. You will then get the option to repair or reinstall the operating system.

An alternative is to use the Advanced Boot Options menu (via the BIOS menu) to access Windows System Restore. This will restore your computer to a point before the ransomware infected it.

Restoring or repairing the system should remove the infection, but it is possible that your files will still be encrypted, or maybe even deleted. However, this will not be a problem if you have been backing up your computer.