The “No More Ransomware” Project

Category: Security

Ransomware is the fastest-growing scourge on the Internet. This diabolical form of malware, which encrypts one’s hard drive and demands payment for the key, has exploded in recent months. Here's what you can do to prevent a ransomware attack, and quickly recover if it does happen...

Are You at Risk?

According to Kaspersky Lab, over 700,000 users fell victim to ransomware attacks between between April 2015 and March 2016 -- a 5X increase compared over the previous twleve month period.

You are a potential victim whether you are a major corporation, a small business, or a home computer user. Ransomware doesn’t care whose computer it infects. Distributors of ransomware will tailor their demands to the victim’s pocketbook, and often adjust the price of decryption up or down during communications with a victim.

Ransomware attacks often come in the form of clever "phishing" emails that encourage you to click a link, or open an important-looking document. Outdated software with known security vulnerabilities is another common attack vector.

No More RansomWare!

The threat has become so great that several international organizations have teamed up to fight it. The “No-More-Ransom” site is an initiative of the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ police, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security. Its mission is twofold: preventing ransomware infections and helping the infected recover their data without paying the crooks.

When you first visit the site, you’ll be asked whether you’re already infected with ransomware. Answer “no” and you’ll be taken to the Prevention page, which is full of advice on how to avoid becoming a victim. Many of these tips are things I have urged upon my readers for years, including making multiple backup copies of vital data, using robust anti-malware software, and keeping operating system and application software up to date with the latest security patches.

Trust No One

Other good advice there includes “Trust no one. Literally.” Do not click on any link or file attachment - even if it seems to have been sent by your bank, your brother the IT administrator, or your Mom - until you know what you are clicking on. If a message seems out of the ordinary, call your contact and ask if he or she sent it. No account is safe from hacking or impersonation (“spoofing”).

For further protection, enable the ‘Show file extensions’ option in the Windows settings on your computer. To do so, type “folder options” in the Start menu’s search box and click on “Folder Options” in the search results. In the dialogue window that opens, select the “View” tab. Uncheck the box next to "Hide extensions for known file types". Click “OK” to save this change and close the dialogue window.

The purpose of showing common file extensions is to help you spot executable files (programs) that are disguised as non-executables. With “hide extensions” enabled, a file named WatchMe.avi looks like a video file. But with all extensions revealed, it may be WatchMe.avi.EXE and that is a big red flag. If you see multiple file extensions, delete the file without opening it.

Are You Infected?

If you answer “yes” to the question, “Are you already infected with ransomware?” you will be taken to a series of pages that can help diagnose and treat the infection.

The site’s “Crypto Sheriff” page asks you to upload two samples of encrypted files from your hostage hard drive. These are analyzed for patterns used by known variants of ransomware.

You will also be asked to send “any email or/and website address you see in the RANSOM DEMAND.” The ransom note itself contains clues to the identity of the hostage-takers and the ransomware that infects your computer.

The site will look for a decryption key or method in its extensive database of known ransomware. Hopefully, it will provide a solution that you can use to decrypt your data without paying the bad guys any money.

I urge you to take the preventive measures listed on the website, and keep the address handy. You or a friend may find it handy one day.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "The “No More Ransomware” Project"

Posted by:

Pete Greenwood
04 Aug 2016

I'm not stupid enough to believe my computer is invulnerable, but I've been taking sensible precautions to protect the computer - and my privacy - for years, and so far avoided problems. As you recommend, keeping alert and applying common sense is key.
Keep up the great work, Bob!

Posted by:

David W
04 Aug 2016

Running Win 10 with all updates and current anti-virus, Bitdefender and Malware, Malwarebytes. I am an IT professional and am very careful, yet was hit two days ago, but was able to clean my system pretty fast. The thing that keeps me busy is most Windows users do not maintain their systems security and backup their files. And this ransomeware is very aggressive. Funny story. A client got nailed and called the number and said he was unemployed and had no money and was afraid he would lose his only pictures of his wife who had just died....the guy on the phone gave him the code for free....

Posted by:

04 Aug 2016

Role reversal?
One of the things computers were to do for us was to simplify maintenance of our data, and reduce our work load. However, with all the problems we have with security these days, I feel like I have become slave to our common systems vulnerabilities, and have to allocate several hours per week to do guard duty for the PC. Backward?

Posted by:

04 Aug 2016

I use a financial programme on a PC disconnected from the internet. This serves as a safe record along, with my backup, for finances and other important stuff. The PC is old with XP but very stable and capable of repair.

Posted by:

Curt Mixon
04 Aug 2016

Ransomware is no fun. I have recovered from it painfully once myself and helped many others since. Prudence is your best bet. Good luck and stay aware!

Posted by:

04 Aug 2016

Thanks for another great article Bob. I read on the 'No More Ransom' site that Kaspersky and McAfee products can identify and prevent Ransomeware attacks. Are you aware of any of the free AV/AM products that can do this?

Posted by:

05 Aug 2016

Oddly, I was only able to open the article in Edge after updating to the latest Win 10 anniversary update.

Posted by:

Pat C.
05 Aug 2016

I was hit by the 'FBI' ransomeware telling me my computer was used for child p**n and I had to send $$$$$ to them. I unplugged from the 'net, ran my antibadguys goodies and went on my happy way. I am going to the sitr mentioned and check things out.
Thank You, Mr. Bob, for all you do for us poor, pitiful, beat-upon computer users.

Posted by:

15 Aug 2016

Bob, I remember from waayyy back you have always said to always, always, always back up your data. I am one of the worst but I try to keep pictures in multiple locations and of course with all the free online sites it helps. Thanks for refreshing the warning to backup all, backup often.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- The “No More Ransomware” Project (Posted: 4 Aug 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved