Hackers use ransomware to encrypt your device and hold your data for ransom, typically promising to send you a decryption code if you send them some money. But you may not want to pay the ransom – and there’s no guarantee that the cybercriminals holding your data hostage will actually release it once you pay.
If you’re targeted by a ransomware attack, don’t panic. There may be steps you can take to remove the ransomware from your system without paying any money to the hackers. The first step is to try and identify the type of ransomware you’ve been infected with. Then you can find a removal tool online, or take the computer to a computer repair shop to have the ransomware removed.
Know When You’ve Been Targeted
It’s usually not hard to tell when you’ve been targeted by ransomware. Usually, a ransom note will appear on your screen. It will use scary colors like red, black, and yellow, and might include a skull and crossbones or other similar symbolism. As soon as you see the ransom message, you need to spring into action to keep the infection from spreading and get your data back.
Isolate The Infected Device
First things first – isolate the infected device to try and stop the spread of the ransomware to other devices on your network. Disable wifi connectivity and Bluetooth. If your computer is physically connected to the network via Ethernet, disconnect it. You can’t always stop the spread of the ransomware infection – some ransomware just spreads too fast – but it’s worth a shot.
Identify The Type Of Ransomware Infecting Your System
There are two basic types of ransomware: screen-locking ransomware and encryption ransomware. Screen-locking ransomware locks your screen so you can’t get into any of your files. If you can’t find a way to get around the ransom note on your screen, you likely have screen-locking ransomware. That’s good news; it’s usually easier to remove from your system than encryption ransomware. If you can get past the message on the screen to browse through your directories but can’t open any files, you likely have encryption ransomware.
There’s also a chance that you’ve been targeted by scareware that’s masquerading as ransomware. If you can get past the ransom message and still open your files, you’ve likely been targeted by scareware, which you can safely ignore.
In any case, you need to try and figure out what type of ransomware you have so you can choose the right tool to get rid of it. Often, ransomware will identify itself. You can also use Crypto Sheriff or ID Ransomware to identify the ransomware.
Look For A Ransomware Removal Tool
Once you know what kind of ransomware you have, you can find the right ransomware removal tool. Go to No More Ransom to find the right encryption tool for your system. The list is organized from oldest (at the top) to newest (at the bottom), and several of the decryption tools can be used to clean up multiple strains of ransomware. Once you have removed the ransomware, make sure you’re using strong ransomware protection to keep your system from getting infected again.
Try System Restore
If you can’t find a ransomware decryptor for the type of ransomware you have, or if you find that your files can’t be decrypted, you can try cleaning your system with a full System Restore. Hopefully, you’ve backed up your files (but make sure to plug your backup into another system to make sure it isn’t also encrypted). Follow the System Restore instructions for your version of Windows to restore your system to the last good point. Note that simply running a normal antivirus scan may not remove all traces of the ransomware from your system.
Go To A Computer Repair Shop
If all else fails, you can always take your device to a computer repair shop and have a qualified technician remove the ransomware and, hopefully, restore your data.
File A Police Report
If you want to file an insurance claim regarding your system’s ransomware infection, you’re going to need a police report. It’s also a good idea to file a police report to help authorities keep track of the prevalence of ransomware infections, as well as what types of infections are most common and how they’re spreading.
It can be easy to panic when you open your computer and get a scary ransom message, but try to stay calm. There are steps you can take to get your data back – without paying a ransom.