How to remove ransomware: Use this battle plan to fight back

Mark Hachman

The next step? Identification and removal. If you have a paid antimalware solution, scan your hard drive and try contacting your vendor’s tech support and help forums. Another excellent resource is NoMoreRansom.com’s Crypto-Sheriff, a collection of resources and ransomware uninstallers from Intel, Interpol, and Kaspersky Lab that can help you identify and begin eradicating the ransomware from your system with free removal tools.

crypto sheriff
NoMoreRansom.org The front page of NoMoreRansom.org’s Crypto-Sheriff site includes an easy tool to discover what kind of ransomware may be affecting your PC.

 

If all else fails

Unfortunately, experts say that the key question—should we pay up, or risk losing everything?—is often answered by pulling out one’s wallet. If you can’t remove the ransomware, you’ll be forced to consider how much your data is worth, and how quickly you need it. Datto’s 2016 survey showed that 42 percent of those small businesses hit by ransomware paid up. 

tescrypt
Microsoft From Dec. 2015 until May 2016, Tescrypt was the most common ransomware variant detected by Microsoft. 

Keep in mind that there’s a person on the other end of that piece of malware that’s ruining your life. If there’s a way to message the ransomware authors, experts recommend that you try it. Don’t expect to be able to persuade them to unencrypt your files for free. But as crooked as they are, ransomware writers are businessmen, and you can always try asking for more time or negotiating a lower ransom. If nothing else, Grossman said there’s no harm in asking for a so-called “proof of life”—what guarantee can the criminal offer that you’ll actually get your data back? (Of the companies that Datto surveyed, about a quarter didn’t get their data back.)

Remember, though, that the point of the prevention, duplication, and backup steps are to give you options. If you have pristine copies of your data saved elsewhere, all you may need to do is reset your PC, reinstall your apps, and restore your data from the backup.

 

Don’t let this happen to you

In my situation, my wife and I discovered that we had already backed up everything important to both a cloud service and an external drive. All we lost was a few hours of our evening, including resetting her PC. 

Ransomware can infect your PC in any number of ways: a new app, a Flash-based gaming site, an accidental click on a bad ad. In our case, it was a sharp reminder not to go clicking willy-nilly because a “friend” had recommended some bargain shopping site. We’re teaching those same lessons to our kids, too.

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