Another type of malware that is unfortunately becoming more and more common is known as ransomware. This software is a malicious program that will hijack your computer, preventing you from accessing your files, and demanding that you pay a ransom to unlock it. These ransoms are commonly paid in a way that makes it difficult to trace the location of the recipient.
Ransomware was first implemented in 1996, but was initially slow to catch on. However, over time, as more tools became available, this type of malware attack became more common. Initially spreading from Russia, this type of malicious code can take your files hostage. Here is how it works. First, an attacker develops a piece of software that will surreptitiously slide its way into a system. This is often done through social engineering, where the user becomes convinced that the software is harmless or even necessary. Once in, it takes all of the user’s files and encrypts them. Once encrypted, they will be incredibly difficult to unlock. Realistically, in order to brute force a sophisticated encryption you would require far more computing power than is currently available. Then, the malware gives you a message. Unlike other malicious programs, ransomware wants you to know that it is there. It tells you that it will delete all of your files after a certain period of time, unless you pay. Nowadays, payment is normally done in bitcoin, a cryptocurrency which is impossible to trace or reverse. The program will instruct the user to send the payment with a certain snippet of information generated by the program when it encrypts your files. Once the attacker has this information, he can use his master key to generate a key to be used to decrypt your files.
So, what can be done about ransomware? Unfortunately, once a computers files have been encrypted, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to decrypt the files without access to the master key. And the attacker is unlikely to give this up. Therefore, if the information on the computer is worth more than the price asked for, you may have no choice but to comply with the hackers demands.
With that said, it Is always good to take your computer to an expert before paying or giving up. There is a chance that the malware is a variant that can be unlocked or removed without much trouble. Some older or poorly programmed pieces of ransomware fit this bill. Therefore, find out if your information can be recovered cheaply, and what your best options are. Finally, the best way to protect your data is to have it backed up elsewhere. This way, you can remove the virus, reset the computer, and re import your files from another location.