There are a number of different viruses on the web, from annoying browser jackers to damaging trojans, but the biggest threat out there is ransomware. Ransomware viruses will hold your computer hostage for a period of time during which you have to either cut your losses at the expense of your data or pay the virus owner whatever they are demanding to relinquish your computer. There are many different types of ransomware, but the best way to get rid of any of them is to never get them in the first place.
Types of Ransomware
This type of malware comes most often in the form of a faux security program, claiming your computer has dozens if not hundreds or thousands of infected files. The popup will explain that the only way to clean your computer is to perform a deep scan for a nominal price, which will “find” all the infected files and “clean” them for you. In reality, the only file to be cleaned is the faux program. Sometimes clicking on the popup to perform the scan will put your data in jeopardy, so instead of just paying the malcontents to go away, you’re paying them to steal your data.
Run a security scan with your actual security program (if you don’t have one, you need to change that). The scans will usually find and remove this type of ransomware.
- Screen Locks
You turn on your computer screen to find a single image of the FBI seal or other government entity filling your screen and alerting you that your computer has been seized in connection with illegal activity. The only way to unlock your computer is to pay a fine.
Run a system restore, or if possible boot from an external drive or CD and run security scans. A word to the wise, the FBI, Department of Justice, and other government agencies will not seize your computer in this manner ever. So, don’t let the hackers scare you into thinking it’s legit.
- Encryption Ransomware
The worst of the worst, this virus encrypts (secures) all of your files and prevents you from accessing them. The viral thieves then ask for payment to decrypt the files. If you pay the fee, there’s no guarantee that the thieves will actually decrypt the files for you.
Bad news: there is no easy fix for this. The FBI recommends paying the ransom to get your files back, but various security experts warn that this just allows the thieves to repeatedly at-will seize your computer and demand more money.
Best course of action? Don’t get infected. Be very careful about popups and install a legitimate, trusted antivirus program on your computer. No computer connected to the web is safe, including both PCs and Macs. If you suspect that you have an infection, research it online. There are dozens of sites dedicated to finding and removing viruses, but be leery of sites that offer removal tools. These tools could potentially be just as or more harmful than the viruses you’re targeting.