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What is Ransomware? How to Restore Your Data After Ransomware Attacks

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By: semnaitik

February 18, 2018

Last year in May 2017, the world had witnessed a severe cyber attack, called WannaCry Ransomware attack. This cyber attack had targeted only the Windows users all around the world and demanded a ransom in the form of Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It was considered a network worm because it uses a "transport" mechanism to automatically spread itself. It affected approximately 300,000 computer systems across 150 countries around the world. And the total damage was calculated in billions of dollars.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious software program developed by cryptovirology that attacks a victim's computer system. The purpose of Ransomware attacks is always monetary. It notifies the victim about the attack or exploit, and also instructs how to fix it. The ransom is often demanded in the form of virtual currency so that the identity of attackers can't be known. Malicious email attachments, infected software programs, infected external storage devices and malicious websites are the primary sources of Ransomware malware. 

Generally, Ransomware attack is of two types: simple and advanced. A simple Ransomware attack refers to a lockscreen attack. It can lock the computer system by changing the login credentials so it can't be accessed anyhow. On the other hand, the advanced Ransomware attack is something like data kidnapping. It can easily encrypt the files in order to make them inaccessible. Whatever the type of Ransomware attack is, the Victim has to pay a ransom to regain access to its computer system as well as the files. CryptoLocker and WannaCry are two famous Ransomware.

CryptoLocker was the first widely spread cyber attack that used public-key encryption. It was a Trojan horse malware that was active on the Internet from September 2013 to May 2014. The cyber criminals demanded payment in the form of Bitcoin or a prepaid voucher. It was believed that the cyber criminals used the RSA cryptography which is often impenetrable if implemented properly.  Fortunately, the access of the command-and-control server used by the cyber criminals was gained by a security firm. Also, the encryption keys used in the attack were successfully recovered. 

The recent Ransomware attack was done in May 2017 by WannaCry worm, better known as WannaCry Ransomware Cryptoworm. It successfully infected and encrypted more than a quarter million systems all around the world. The malware used asymmetric encryption so that there's no way to recover the key needed to decrypt the files.

How does Ransomware work? 

The cyber criminals use Ransomware kits to purchase and use a software tool for creating Ransomware with some specific capabilities. Then they generate this malware for their own distribution and launch attacks with a very little effort. To extort the ransom, the attackers use different approaches like:

  • A pop-up message or email is received that warns the victim that if the ransom will not be paid by the certain date, they'll destroy the key required to unlock the device or decrypt the files. 
  • The victim is believed to be a subject of an official inquiry. Also, it's informed that some unlicensed software or illegal content has been found on the victim's computer system. Then the instructions for "how to pay an electronic fine" are provided to the victim. 
  • All the files on the victim's system get encrypted after the attack. Then the cyber criminals sell a product that can decrypt the files and also prevent the malware attacks in future.  

How to protect against Ransomware attacks?

Ransomware attacks and all other types of cyber extortion are very harmful to any computer user. You may lose all your crucial data forever if you don't pay the ransom to cyber criminals. But make sure you do your best to avoid paying ransoms. Though Ransomware attacks are inevitable, you must take some important measures here: 

  • Avoid clicking on the links in emails sent by an unknown person. Also, never download the attachments or open them. 
  • Keep all the software applications updated. Never use any outdated software. Also, never download software programs from any unauthorized or unknown source. Before downloading and installing any software application, you must read about it carefully. 
  • Apply restrictions on the access of your computer system and/or network. Never let any unknown person access your computer by anyway.
  • Take a regular backup of your computer system and store it on an external hard disk or any other removable storage media. If you face Ransomware attacks and you have the backup, you can successfully restore almost everything without paying anything. Also, avoid storing the backup file on the same computer system. 

Data Recovery after Ransomware Attacks

Damage should be minimal while recovery should be as much as possible. And this is only possible if you have the valid backup and if it contains your 100% data. Though it's pretty tough to recover data after Ransomware attacks, you should definitely use few data recovery software. There are some vendors in the market which provide Data Recovery tools, and most of them are available with the demo version. So before you can purchase any such paid software, you must download the demo version for free evaluation.

SysInfoTools Software is one such vendor that provides you Windows Data Recovery tool. It can recover your maximum possible data from corrupt, infected and/or damaged hard disk drive in their original form. It supports data recovery from both FAT as well as NTFS file systems of the hard disk. In a case, you've faced Ransomware attacks, you must download its demo version. It can scan your hard disk drive and present a preview of your data in the tree structure. You can check the preview of your data which you can actually recover from the hard disk. Though the chances of data recovery after Ransomware attacks are very low, there's no harm in trying the free demo version.

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