How To Guide Ransomware

Ransomware Attack: What It Is & How to Protect Yourself

Is your data safe from the ever-evolving threat of Ransomware? Ransomware or file encryption virus is extortion malware that locks victims’ users’ computer screens or more commonly, encrypts their personal files. then blackmail them to pay ransom to regain access to their locked files.

What is Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (crypto-malware). Just like its name, this virus aims to extort money from victims. In order to achieve its roguish goal, it targets users’ personal files. It encrypts victims’ important data or their system screen, restricting them from accessing their files, until a payment is made. File encryption viruses pose a significant threat to victims’ privacy.


This notorious form of cyberattack has evolved rapidly over the years, from targeting individuals to businesses, and even government organizations worldwide. The severity of the threat has increased terrifyingly due to the increasing sophistication of file encryption virus strains and the lucrative nature of ransom payments used by cybercriminals.

⚠︎ Disclaimer: This post aims to give you the knowledge and resources you need to negotiate yourself out of this digital trap. We will explain data locker viruses, examine their different variations, and expose the strategies used by attackers. Most importantly, you will learn the specific actions you can take to safeguard your personal information and your system from being violated by Ransomware attacks.

About File Encryption

file encryptionFile encryption is a security measure used to prevent unauthorized access to your files. It’s like putting a digital lock on your data. It transforms readable data into scrambled code so that only authorized individuals with a decryption passcode can access the files.

File encryption provides an essential extra layer of security, especially when handling sensitive information like financial statements, health records, or private pictures. However, cyber crooks take advantage of this security measure by turning it into the worst nightmare for users. Hackers use data locker viruses to encrypt victims’ data restricting them from accessing their own files.

How Does Ransomware Works

The easiest way to understand ransomware attacks is by real like the K&R (kidnap and ransom) example. File encryption viruses are the digital form of real-life Kidnap and Ransom crime. Instead of a person, the attackers target victims’ precious files, taking it hostage in this particular scenario by simply encrypting the files.

How does ransomware work

After encryption, then the attackers establish a connection with victims and start negotiations. In ransomware attacks, hackers use Ransom notes to establish connections with victims. Apart from taking responsibility for encryption, the ransom note tries to scare victim that the only way to restore their files is by paying ransom money.

Furthermore, ransom note also warns victims to not try to decrypt files manually. Just like real-life kidnapping, attackers also give proof of life, in order to prove that victims’ files have not been harmed in any way yet, hackers mostly offer one or two unimportant files for free.

In some cases, hackers also use time limits, to create a sense of emergency in victims’ minds. Ransom notes attack victims’ psychology, by treating them and also offering to help them at the same point. The ransom note also contains hackers’ contact emails, telegrams, etc. to make the payment.

Shocking Statistic:

  • By 2031, ransomware is predicted to damage the world’s economy $265 billion a year.
  • Did you know that there is a ransomware attack in the world every 11 seconds?
  • Over 80% of ransomware attacks exploit human error, like opening infected attachments or clicking on malicious URLs.
  • The average ransom payment made by affected businesses reached a record high of $260,000 in 2023.

Types of Ransomware Attacks:

Ransomware attacks can be differentiated into two major categories. The first is locking the entire system whereas in the second encrypts victims’ personal and important files.

Types of ransomware attacks

Locking Entire Computer: In this method attackers use official identities, like the FBI, to incite false claims of illegal activity, such as downloading pirated software or viewing pornography, in order to deceive computer users into paying a fine for alleged infractions. A scary-looking warning will appear on your system screen, locking your entire computer.

File encryption: This is the most common and majorly used technique. In this method, hackers’ viruses target victims’ personal data. It encrypts all kinds of important files using a powerful encryption algorithm and blackmails them to pay money in order to decrypt your data.

The Impact of Ransomware:

Ransomware presents a serious threat to individuals, businesses, and critical infrastructure worldwide. Along with data inaccessibility, its effects often result in significant financial losses and reputation damage. In most cases, victims don’t get their files decrypted despite paying ransom money.

Many victims have reported that the attackers stopped all communications with them as soon as the payment was made, leaving their files inaccessible. File encryption viruses also go for double extortion these days.

Double Extortion: Nowadays, hackers not only encrypt victims’ data but also copy their files. After encryption, the ransom note threatens the victims to publish their data online if the ransom money is not paid in a given time.

Double extortion ransomware represents a significant escalation in cyber threats. Now the risk is not only losing your data, but your privacy is also at great risk. And what guarantee do you have that hackers will not expose confidential data even when you pay the ransom??

Popular Cypto-Malware Strains:

Name: WannaCry
Year of Detection: 2017
Encryption Algorithm: AES, RSA
Related Trojan: WannaCry
Ransom Note: @Please_Read_Me@.txt
Ransom Demand: $300-$600 in Bitcoin
Description: Used EternalBlue exploit, demanded ransom in multiple languages, caused global disruption
Name: LockBit
Year of Detection: 2016
Encryption Algorithm: AES
Related Trojan: Lockbit
Ransom Note: README_LOCKBIT.txt
Ransom Demand: Varies
Description: Known for its speed of encryption, capable of encrypting large networks rapidly, offers a “partner program” for affiliates
Name: Ryuk
Year of Detection: 2018
Encryption Algorithm: AES
Related Trojan: Ryuk
Ransom Note: RyukReadMe.txt
Ransom Demand: Multi-million Dollars
Description: Highly targeted, demanded large ransom payments, often part of a broader campaign
Name: Dharma
Year of Detection: 2016
Year of Detection: AES
Related Trojan: Dharma
Ransom Note: FILES ENCRYPTED.txt
Ransom Demand: Negotiable
Description: Known for appending various extensions to encrypted files
Name: Cerber
Year of Detection: 2016
Encryption Algorithm: AES
Related Trojan: Locky
Ransom Note: # DECRYPT MY FILES #.hta, # DECRYPT MY FILES #.txt, # DECRYPT MY FILES #.vbs
Ransom Demand: Varies
Description: Evaded detection by security software, offered as a service to other cybercriminals
Name: GandCrab
Year of Detection: 2018
Encryption Algorithm: RSA, Salsa20
Related Trojan: GandCrab
Ransom Note: CRAB-DECRYPT.txt, CRAB-DECRYPT.html
Ransom Demand: Varies
Description: Operated as a RaaS, retired in 2019, frequently updated to evade detection
Name: Sodinokibi
Year of Detection: 2019
Encryption Algorithm: AES
Year of Detection: Sodinokibi
Ransom Note: README.txt
Ransom Demand: Negotiable
Description: Utilized a variety of extensions for encrypted files, spread via phishing emails
Name: Maze
Year of Detection: 2019
ChaCha20, RSA
Related Trojan: Locky
Ransom Note: DECRYPT-FILES.txt
Ransom Demand: Varies
Description: Introduced double extortion tactics, and threatened to leak stolen data if ransom was not paid
Name: Conti
Year of Detection: 2020
Encryption Algorithm: AES
Related Trojan: Conti
Ransom Note: CONTI_README.txt
Ransom Demand: Varies
Description: Known for high ransom demands, sophisticated encryption techniques, active in healthcare sector
Name: Stop/Djvu
Year of Detection:2018
Encryption Algorithm: Salsa20
Related Trojan: stop.exe
Ransom Note: $1999 to $999
Ransom Demand: Varies
Description: Known for its robust encryption algorithm, and using different extensions.
Name:  NetWalker
Year of Detection: 2019
Encryption Algorithm: AES, RSA
Related Trojan: NetWalker
Ransom Note: _readme.txt
Ransom Demand: Negotiable
Description:Targeted healthcare and government sectors, used file techniques to evade detection,

What to do if infected with ransomware:

Do Not Panic, it very essential to keep your calm. If your system is infected with a data locker virus, first of all, isolate your device. Disconnect the compromised system from the Internet or any other connected devices. Most ransomware viruses can travel through the network and can infect all other devices connected to the same network.

Do Note Pay Ransom: Well, paying ransom may seem like an easy way out but it’s not. There is no guarantee that hackers will restore your files once you paid the money. Furthermore, attackers may use file encryption viruses to encrypt your files again for more money.

Identify Ransomware:

The most important lesson of the art of war is to know your enemy. This is war, and hence you should identify your enemy and gather as many details as you can, in this case, the virus. You can upload your encrypted files at VirusTotal which will scan your infected files for free and detect malicious codes and files. You should also take the help of Google to find out as much as you can about the threat. If you find your files encrypted, then look for clues such as:

  • File extension appended to encrypted files (e.g., “_README.txt”)
  • Ransom note filename
  • Messages displayed by the ransom note
  • Online resources dedicated to identifying ransomware (use caution when visiting unknown websites)

Report Ransomware Attack:

Reporting the attack is very crucial in helping authorities track down the attackers and prevent future attacks. Depending on your location and nationality, here is where you can report ransomware attacks:

United States:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): You can file a report online at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website:
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA): Report ransomware attacks to CISA through their online portal

United Kingdom:



New Zealand:

Once you identified and reported the attack, then it is very important to remove ransomware from your PC. If you found any trusted website that could help you with ransomware removal, follow the instructions carefully, or you could also use powerful anti-malware software to get rid of the virus completely from your system.

It is important to remove the threat from your system before trying to restore your data otherwise the crypto-malware may encrypt your restored files again. Also, hackers may use this threat to install other harmful threats on your PC or Mac.

How To Decrypt Ransomware Files

Once you identified, reported, and removed the Ransomware, then you should look for a way to restore your encrypted files. This is the most important part, and hence victims should practice caution. As we discussed already, paying ransom money is not a wise choice. However, there are few safe and effective ways that can be used to decrypt ransomware files.

Restore encrypted data

Don’t Delete Encrypted Files: To decrypt your data, it is necessary to have the encrypted files. Make sure all the encrypted files are intact, it can be helpful for future decryption efforts.

Restore Backup: The best way to decrypt ransomware files is using backup. If you have a backup that has not been encrypted by the crypto-malware then you can simply restore the backup to your files back. Both Windows and Mac computer provides a system restore feature. If you have created a restore point in your system before the ransomware attack then you can restore your computer and it will be like the attack never happened.

Check for Decryptor Tools: Some security experts and security companies actively research ransomware viruses trying to crack encryption. They often release their free descriptors for tools for certain file encryption virus variants. Some of the most reputed free decryptor tool providers are:

  1. No More Ransom Project
  2. Emsisoft Decryptors
  3. Avast Decryption Tools
  4. Kaspersky Ransomware Decryptors

However, you might have to wait a long period of time for a decryptor, and it might never come. In case if you don’t want to wait then you can use a reputed third-party data recovery software. Most data recovery software these days, provide free scans and allow victims to see recoverable files.

We have created a detailed guide on how to restore encrypted data check here: Encrypted Data Recovery Guide


Losing the worst nightmare for any user. Therefore, ransomware prevention is very important. Users should follow security practices like using strong passwords, updating software, and exercising caution when opening email attachments and clicking on external sites, etc. can help you keep your PC and files protected from severe threats.

Ransomware FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your files, restricting victims from accessing their files until a sum of money as ransom is paid.

2. How does ransomware infect a computer?

File encryption viruses can infect a computer through several deceptive means such as phishing emails, malicious attachments, compromised websites, and exploiting software vulnerabilities.

3. What types of files does ransomware target?

It targets users’ important and personal files, including documents, photos, videos, databases, and more. Basically, any file stored on the infected system may be at risk.

4. What should I do if my computer is infected with ransomware?

If your computer is infected with a file encryption virus, it’s crucial to isolate your infected device in order to prevent the infection from spreading. Then, seek professional assistance from cybersecurity experts or utilize antivirus software to remove ransomware.

5. Should I pay the ransom?

Paying the ransom is not recommended. There is no guarantee that paying the ransom will decrypt your files. Furthermore, paying the money will not only encourage the criminal but also provide them funds for the operations of cyber criminals.

6. Can I decrypt my files without paying the ransom?

Certainly! If you have a working backup file, you can easily restore all your files. Additionally, cybersecurity experts often crack the decryption and provide free decryptors for certain crypto-malware strains. You could search for such tools and attempt file recovery without paying the ransom.

7. How can I protect my computer from ransomware?

In order to protect your computer from ransomware, follow preventive security measures such as regularly updating your operating system and software, using reputable antivirus and antimalware programs, enabling firewalls, and exercising caution when opening email attachments or clicking on links. It is also very important to regularly back up your files. It would be sensible to keep a copy of your backup on a separate device or external drive.

8. Can ransomware infect mobile devices?

Yes, crypto-malware can infect mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Users should avoid downloading apps from untrusted sources and regularly update their device’s operating system and apps to minimize the risk of infection.

9. What should I do if I’m infected with ransomware?

First of all, isolate the infected device. Disconnect the infected device from the network and other devices to prevent the spread of contamination. Try to identify the malware and make sure to report the attack. Once the virus is identified, then scan your system with a reputable antivirus program, and try to remove the threat from your PC. Once the threat is eliminated, look for decryptor tools. You can use a backup if you have one or try using a third-party data recovery tool to decrypt your files.

10. Are there any decryptor tools available for ransomware?

Yes, some cybersecurity companies like (NoMoreRansom, and Emisoft) develop decryptor tools to help victims recover their files without paying the ransom.

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