Home > Ransomware > Ransomware Virus – What Is It?

Ransomware Virus – What Is It?

What Is Ransomware and How Does It Work?

In layman’s terms, ransomware is a type of malicious software which blocks access to a computer system and encrypts its data, until a sum of money in cryptocurrency (usually Bitcoin) is paid. There are numerous such campaigns in the wild, targeting both organizations and home users. Some examples include the STOP/DJVU family and the many iterations of the Dharma family, such as .RZA file.

Ransomware infections are done in order to encrypt user files and extort the victims for payment. They have become one of the most popular malware in the past years, as they are one of the most effective weapons that damage whole networks. This malware category is part of large-scale campaigns against both corporations and government networks and individual end-users.

By definition, ransomware is a file-encrypting threat that usually follows the same model of intrusion. Over the years, most of the detected variants have been grouped in specific ransomware families, which could indicate that these families have a single-engine code base.

Most of the ransomware attacks detected in the wild feature a modular structure, which allows the main engine to call out different modules. From a simple file encryption procedure, ransomware can produce a lot of extensive damage.

How Does Ransomware Infect a Computer?

Ransomware is the type of malware that can infect computers using different strategies. The infections can happen from various sources and include a different behavior depending on local machine conditions or the hacking group’s hacker configuration. As their popularity grows, the underground hacking forums often provide ransomware code for free or for a given sum. This method is shortly known as ransomware-as-a-service (Raas).

What does ransomware-as-a-service mean? This means that the ransom will be offered to prospective hackers for a subscription fee. They will be given access to a dashboard panel with advanced functionality. Some of the popular cases will also include a tiered payment — for a given price, additional features will be enabled. In 2021, we have witnessed several new ransomware-as-a-service groups, proving that this business model is evolving, attracting more inexperienced cybercriminals.

This allows even beginner hackers to begin creating file-encryptors of their own.

Most distribution tactics rely on phishing campaigns — they attempt to manipulate the end users into thinking that they have received a message or are visiting a site of a trusted entity. Commonly they are designed to replicate the design and typical content that one may find in the legitimate service. The malware can be placed across all shown elements and scripts interaction. When it comes to phishing content, the malware can be integrated across the sites and emails:

  • Links and Redirects — The threat can be linked in the messages and sites using different types of links. They can be direct downloads to the infected files, gateway pages or shortened URLs. Redirects are links that point to a page that will automatically lead to another site or hidden landing page from where the threat download will be triggered.
  • Scripts Execution — Malware can be inserted in scripts that are run without the users knowing. As soon as a given page is loaded they will be processed by the web browser.
  • Interactive Elements — All kind of multimedia content can be used to deliver the threat. This includes pop-ups, banners, ads and buttons.

The malicious code can be easily inserted in various file types that will run the malware as soon as they are executed. The two most popular types are the bundle application installers and macro-infected documents. The documents may be of all popular formats: text documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and databases. When the users open them, a prompt will be displayed, notifying them that they will not be able to view the files correctly. To do this, they will need to enable the macros. This will trigger the malware execution.

On the other hand, the application setup files are usually popular software that is commonly downloaded by the end-users. These files can be uploaded to hacker-controlled pages, file-sharing networks (like BitTorrent), and online communities. Using the same phishing tactic, the hackers can use fake identities or hacked profiles to impersonate developers, game designers, or experienced gamers.

File encrypting malware may also be delivered via other malware threats. Among the most common ones who use this tactic are the browser hijackers — these are malicious plugins made for the most popular web browsers. They are spread similarly using phishing tactics — they are uploaded to repositories, download portals, and landing pages.

To make the users want to download them, additional content can be created to advertise them: a lucrative description offering new functionality and performance enhancements and fake user reviews.

Like Trojans, these threats can be delivered via a several stage sequences — this is commonly done by programming a payload carrier to install the malware on its behalf. This is usually done to prevent discovery by security services. These payload carriers may be spread using the same infection tactics; however, in some cases, they might have a higher chance of success as they of a much smaller size than the threats. Most carriers are essentially scripts written in Bash, PowerShell, or Python.

What Is the Purpose of File-Encrypting Malware?

As soon as a given infection has been accomplished, two types of infiltration can be made — an instant one or an infiltration after a given period of time. The second approach is intentional, as this can bypass some of the standard detection signals.

Many of the more complex variants are programmed to run a security software and services bypass before launching any other components and code.

This will initiate a module that will scan the compromised system for any installed security systems or applications that may interfere with the ransom. This includes a wide range of programs: anti-virus engines, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and virtual machine hosts, and sandbox environments. The reason for having them on the list is because they are used for capture and analysis. If a malware sample is loaded in them, the computer owners will be able to carefully research the type of infection they have acquired.

Depending on the cybercriminals’ intentions or local machine conditions, different components can be called. A common action is to gather sensitive information that can be grouped into two main categories:

  • Personal User Information — The engine will be commanded to search through the operating system memory, hard disk drive and application data for information that can reveal the identities of the users. The collected information will be stored in a database and then sent to the hackers. It can be used for further crimes such as identity theft, blackmail and financial abuse.
  • Machine Details — Attacks can be used to generate a report of the installed hardware components, operating system values and user preferences.

The collected information can be processed to produce a unique identification number, which can be applied to every individual computer. From there on the information can be analyzed for the presence of running services and applications to which the encrypting malware can hook up to.

Threats like this one are commonly deployed as persistent malware — the main engine will reconfigure the boot options and configuration files in order to automatically start as soon as the computer is booted. This will also prevent security related services from running normally.

From a user’s perspective, they might not be able to access recovery menus and options that are normally used to remove malware manually. For this reason, we recommend that the victims use an anti-malware utility.

The engine can alter and delete files — this includes both files owned by the users, essential system data, computer game save files, work data, documents, and Shadow Volume copies and backups.

When this is coupled by the modification of system settings, configuration files and Windows Registry a lot of damage that can be done. This can include unexpected errors, severe performance issues, and loss of data. The users may find that commonly used features of applications may not function properly.

Advanced variants can also be used to infect the systems with other popular types of malware. Common examples are the following:

  • Trojans — They are among the most popular threats which are dropped. Their main goal is to take over control of the computers and spy on the victims.
  • Cryptocurrency Miners — They are mostly web-based scripts that will download a sequence of performance-intensive tasks. They will be run on the victim computers by taking advantage of components such as the CPU, memory, hard disk space, network speed, and the graphics card. These tasks will place a heavy emphasis on the machines; this can result in the users’ inability to use their computers normally. When a given task has been completed running, it will be reported to a special server, and another job will be retrieved. For every completed one, a cryptocurrency award will be rewarded to the hackers, assets that will be directly transferred to their digital wallets.
  • Web Browser Hijackers and Redirect Code — Browser hijackers are dangerous plugins that are created for the most popular web browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer and others. These plugins will change the default settings so that the user will always open up a hacker-controlled page. Options that are modified include the home page, search engine, and new tabs page. As soon as these landing pages are loaded the virus can be automatically deployed via the browser windows or when the users interact with the shown contents.

File encryption is typically the last step in the malicious sequence. It also is the most important action, itself being the definition of ransomware. A strong cipher will be used (typically AES-256) to process certain files. They will be encrypted, a manipulation that will encode the contents of data, thereby making them practically inaccessible. In some cases, the file names can also be renamed, which will further add confusion.

Most malware will also apply a special file extension as a marker to the compromised files. This is among the most popular characteristics that are used during the identification of the threat. Many of the viruses will apply the encryption to target data according to a built-in list. It can include any of the following data: archives, backups, multimedia files, documents, configuration files and etc.

Should You Pay a Ransomware Attack?

should you pay the ransom-sensorstechforum
As the main goal of this type of malicious software is to blackmail the victims, this can be done using different strategies. The most common tactic is to create ransom notes in folders where there are processed files. These notes can be single text document or an elaborate HTML file. Advanced malware instead use ransom lockscreen prompts — they will create application frames that will be placed in a full screen mode and interfere with the ordinary day-to-day activities. The majority of blackmail messages will read that the victims need to transfer a large sum of money to the hackers. Most commonly the funds are to be transferred as cryptocurrency to digital wallets, this provides privacy for both parties. The victims are promised a decryption key or a decryptor that will allow them to unlock their data and restore files. However when the money is transferred the victims will not receive anything.

The Various Types of Extortion

It should be noted that two types of ransomware extortion have emerged in the past year or two, usually aimed at large corporations capable of addressing large ransom demands.

Double Extortion

As pointed out by DarkTrace researchers, after the infamous WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware campaigns that took place 2017, companies had to improve their cyber defense. “More emphasis was placed on backups and restoration processes, so that even if files were destroyed, organizations had copies in place and could easily restore their data,” the researchers noted.

However, cybercriminals didn’t waste any time and quickly adapted to the better protective mechanisms companies adopted. This is how double extortion appeared. What does this mean? Rather than just encrypting the company’s data, this technique is based on data exfiltration prior to data encryption. By doing so, cyberciminals have a reassurance that the victimized company would be willing to pay, as its information could be leaked online or sold to the highest bidder.

What about triple extortion?

Triple Extortion

Shortly said, triple extortion is the expansion to the double extortion technique, which integrates an additional threat to the process (hence the name). The first ransomware attack that illustrates the technique took place in October 2020. The Finnish Vastaamo clinic had its internal systems accessed and the data of its 400 employees and approximately 40,000 patients stolen.

“The extortionist, who went by the name “RANSOM_MAN,” claimed they would publish the data of 100 people each day onto their own Tor file server until they received the bitcoin from Vastaamo. As the company resisted, “RANSOM_MAN” published the personal data of 300 people, including various public figures and police officers,” Wired wrote in an article detailing the devastating attack. In addition, the ransomware operator also demanded smaller amounts of money from the clinic’s patients. The Vastaamo attack is the first of the triple extortion kind.

Then, in February this year, the REvil/Sodinokibi gang announced they added two stages to their regular ransom scheme – DDoS attacks and phone calls to the victim’s business partners and the media. It is noteworthy that the REvil group is now offering DDoS services and voice-scrambled VoIP calls to journalists and colleagues of victims as a free service added to its RaaS package. This technique aims to increase the chances of ransom payments within the given deadline.

Who is mostly endangered by triple extortion?

“Third-party victims, such as company clients, external colleagues and service providers, are heavily influenced, and damaged by data breaches caused by these ransomware attacks, even if their network resources are not targeted directly,” according to a Check Point report on the subject.

Can Ransomware Be Removed?

As always, the use of an anti-malware solution is recommended. Advanced variants may overcome some of the simpler detection methods used by ordinary anti-virus software. For this reason a more complex approach is recommended.

After you have removed the threat, it is strongly recommended to report it to the official authorities, so that they can take measures towards preventing the spread of the infection.

You can file a complaint in the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Can Encrypted Files Be Restored?

Depending on each individual infection, files encrypted by ransomware can be restored. However, in most current cases, the threat has evolved to such an extent that file encryption is nearly impossible. If you are a victim of ransomware, we advise you to refer to the No More Ransom project, where a detailed list of all currently decryptable families is available.

And as pointed out by the researchers behind No More Ransom: “before downloading and starting the solution, read the how-to guide. Make sure you remove the malware from your system first, otherwise it will repeatedly lock your system or encrypt files. Any reliable antivirus solution can do this for you.”

Martin Beltov

Martin graduated with a degree in Publishing from Sofia University. As a cyber security enthusiast he enjoys writing about the latest threats and mechanisms of intrusion.

More Posts

Follow Me:

Attention! SensorsTechForum strongly recommends that all malware victims should look for assistance only by reputable sources. Many guides out there claim to offer free recovery and decryption for files encrypted by ransomware viruses. Be advised that some of them may only be after your money.

As a site that has been dedicated to providing free removal instructions for ransomware and malware since 2014, SensorsTechForum’s recommendation is to only pay attention to trustworthy sources.

How to recognize trustworthy sources:

  • Always check "About Us" web page.
  • Profile of the content creator.
  • Make sure that real people are behind the site and not fake names and profiles.
  • Verify Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter personal profiles.


with Anti-Malware
We recommend you to download SpyHunter and run free scan to remove all virus files on your PC. This saves you hours of time and effort compared to doing the removal yourself.
SpyHunter 5 free remover allows you, subject to a 48-hour waiting period, one remediation and removal for results found. Read EULA and Privacy Policy

Windows Mac OS X

How to Remove ransomware from Windows.

Step 1: Boot Your PC In Safe Mode to isolate and remove ransomware


Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your PC with SpyHunter

Keep in mind, that SpyHunter’s scanner is only for malware detection. If SpyHunter detects malware on your PC, you will need to purchase SpyHunter's malware removal tool to remove the malware threats. Read our SpyHunter 5 review. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter's EULA, Privacy Policy and Threat Assessment Criteria

1. Hold Windows key() + R

2. The "Run" Window will appear. In it, type "msconfig" and click OK.

3. Go to the "Boot" tab. There select "Safe Boot" and then click "Apply" and "OK".
Tip: Make sure to reverse those changes by unticking Safe Boot after that, because your system will always boot in Safe Boot from now on.

4. When prompted, click on "Restart" to go into Safe Mode.

5. You can recognise Safe Mode by the words written on the corners of your screen.

Step 2: Uninstall ransomware and related software from Windows

Here is a method in few easy steps that should be able to uninstall most programs. No matter if you are using Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program are left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, errors with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it. To do that:

1. Hold the Windows Logo Button and "R" on your keyboard. A Pop-up window will appear.

2. In the field type in "appwiz.cpl" and press ENTER.

3. This will open a window with all the programs installed on the PC. Select the program that you want to remove, and press "Uninstall"
Follow the instructions above and you will successfully uninstall most programs.

Step 3: Clean any registries, created by ransomware on your computer.

The usually targeted registries of Windows machines are the following:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce

You can access them by opening the Windows registry editor and deleting any values, created by ransomware there. This can happen by following the steps underneath:

1. Open the Run Window again, type "regedit" and click OK.

2. When you open it, you can freely navigate to the Run and RunOnce keys, whose locations are shown above.

3. You can remove the value of the virus by right-clicking on it and removing it.
Tip: To find a virus-created value, you can right-click on it and click "Modify" to see which file it is set to run. If this is the virus file location, remove the value.

Before starting "Step 4", please boot back into Normal mode, in case you are currently in Safe Mode.
This will enable you to install and use SpyHunter 5 successfully.

Step 4: Scan for ransomware with SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool

1. Click on the "Download" button to proceed to SpyHunter's download page.

It is recommended to run a scan before purchasing the full version of the software to make sure that the current version of the malware can be detected by SpyHunter. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter's EULA, Privacy Policy and Threat Assessment Criteria.

2. After you have installed SpyHunter, wait for it to update automatically.


3. After the update process has finished, click on the 'Malware/PC Scan' tab. A new window will appear. Click on 'Start Scan'.


4. After SpyHunter has finished scanning your PC for any files of the associated threat and found them, you can try to get them removed automatically and permanently by clicking on the 'Next' button.


If any threats have been removed, it is highly recommended to restart your PC.

Step 5 (Optional): Try to Restore Files Encrypted by ransomware.

Ransomware infections and ransomware aim to encrypt your files using an encryption algorithm which may be very difficult to decrypt. This is why we have suggested a data recovery method that may help you go around direct decryption and try to restore your files. Bear in mind that this method may not be 100% effective but may also help you a little or a lot in different situations.

1. Download the reccomended Data Recovery software by clicking on the link underneath:

Simply click on the link and on the website menus on top, choose Data Recovery - Data Recovery Wizard for Windows or Mac (depending on your OS), and then download and run the tool.

Windows Mac OS X

Get rid of ransomware from Mac OS X.

Step 1: Uninstall ransomware and remove related files and objects

Manual Removal Usually Takes Time and You Risk Damaging Your Files If Not Careful!
We Recommend To Scan Your Mac with SpyHunter for Mac
Keep in mind, that SpyHunter for Mac needs to purchased to remove the malware threats. Click on the corresponding links to check SpyHunter’s EULA and Privacy Policy

1. Hit the ⇧+⌘+U keys to open Utilities. Another way is to click on “Go” and then click “Utilities”, like the image below shows:

2. Find Activity Monitor and double-click it:

3. In the Activity Monitor look for any suspicious processes, belonging or related to ransomware:

Tip: To quit a process completely, choose the “Force Quit” option.

4. Click on the "Go" button again, but this time select Applications. Another way is with the ⇧+⌘+A buttons.

5. In the Applications menu, look for any suspicious app or an app with a name, similar or identical to ransomware. If you find it, right-click on the app and select “Move to Trash”.

6: Select Accounts, after which click on the Login Items preference. Your Mac will then show you a list of items that start automatically when you log in. Look for any suspicious apps identical or similar to ransomware. Check the app you want to stop from running automatically and then select on the Minus (“-“) icon to hide it.

7: Remove any left-over files that might be related to this threat manually by following the sub-steps below:

  • Go to Finder.
  • In the search bar type the name of the app that you want to remove.
  • Above the search bar change the two drop down menus to “System Files” and “Are Included” so that you can see all of the files associated with the application you want to remove. Bear in mind that some of the files may not be related to the app so be very careful which files you delete.
  • If all of the files are related, hold the ⌘+A buttons to select them and then drive them to “Trash”.

In case you cannot remove ransomware via Step 1 above:

In case you cannot find the virus files and objects in your Applications or other places we have shown above, you can manually look for them in the Libraries of your Mac. But before doing this, please read the disclaimer below:

Disclaimer! If you are about to tamper with Library files on Mac, be sure to know the name of the virus file, because if you delete the wrong file, it may cause irreversible damage to your MacOS. Continue on your own responsibility!

1: Click on "Go" and Then "Go to Folder" as shown underneath:

2: Type in "/Library/LauchAgents/" and click Ok:

3: Delete all of the virus files that have similar or the same name as ransomware. If you believe there is no such file, do not delete anything.

You can repeat the same procedure with the following other Library directories:

→ ~/Library/LaunchAgents

Tip: ~ is there on purpose, because it leads to more LaunchAgents.

Click the button below below to download SpyHunter for Mac and scan for ransomware:


SpyHunter for Mac

Step 3 (Optional): Try to Restore Files Encrypted by ransomware.

Ransomware infections and ransomware aim to encrypt your files using an encryption algorithm which may be very difficult to decrypt. This is why we have suggested a data recovery method that may help you go around direct decryption and try to restore your files. Bear in mind that this method may not be 100% effective but may also help you a little or a lot in different situations.

1. Download the reccomended Data Recovery software by clicking on the link underneath:

Simply click on the link and on the website menus on top, choose Data Recovery - Data Recovery Wizard for Windows or Mac (depending on your OS), and then download and run the tool.

ransomware FAQ

What is ransomware ransomware and how does it work?

ransomware is a ransomware infection - the malicious software that enters your computer silently and blocks either access to the computer itself or encrypt your files.

Many ransomware viruses use sophisticated encryption algorithm how to make your files inaccessible. The goal of ransomware infections is to demand that you pay a ransom payment to get access to your files back.

How does ransomware ransomware infect my computer?

Via several ways.ransomware Ransomware infects computers by being sent via phishing e-mails, containing virus attachment.

This attachment is usually masked as an important document, like an invoice, bank document or even a plane ticket and it looks very convincing to users.

After you download and execute this attachment, a drive-by download occurs and your computer is infected with the ransomware virus.

Another way, you may become a victim of ransomware is if you download a fake installer, crack or patch from a low reputation website or if you click on a virus link. Many users report getting a ransomware infection by downloading torrents.

How to open .ransomware files?

You can't. At this point the .ransomware files are encrypted. You can only open them once they are decrypted.

Decryptor did not decrypt my data. What now?

Do not panic and backup the files. If a decryptor did not decrypt your .ransomware files successfully, then do not despair, because this virus is still new.

One way to restore files, encrypted by ransomware ransomware is to use a decryptor for it. But since it's a new virus, advised that the decryption keys for it may not be out yet and available to the public. We will update this article and keep you posted as soon as this decryptor is released.

How Do I restore ".ransomware" files (Other Methods)?

Yes, sometimes files can be restored. We have suggested several file recovery methods that could work if you want to restore .ransomware files.

These methods are in no way 100% guarantee that you will be able to get your files back. But if you have a backup, your chances of success are much greater.

How do I get rid of ransomware ransomware virus?

The safest way and the most efficient one for the removal of this ransomware infection is the use a professional anti malware software. It will scan for and locate ransomware ransomware and then remove it without causing any additional harm to your important .ransomware files.

Also, keep in mind that viruses like ransomware ransomware also install Trojans and keyloggers that can steal your passwords and accounts. Scanning your computer with an anti-malware software will make sure that all of these virus components are removed and your computer is protected in the future.

What to Do If nothing works?

There is still a lot you can do. If none of the above methods seem to work for you, then try these methods:

  • Try to find a safe computer from where you can can login on your own line accounts like One Drive, iDrive, Google Drive and so on.
  • Try to contact your friends, relatives and other people so that they can check if they have some of your important photos or documents just in case you sent them.
  • Also, check if some of the files that were encrypted it can be re-downloaded from the web.
  • Another clever way to get back some of your files is to find another old computer, a flash drive or even a CD or a DVD where you may have saved your older documents. You might be surprised what will turn up.
  • You can also go to your email account to check if you can send any attachments to other people. Usually what is sent the email is saved on your account and you can re-download it. But most importantly, make sure that this is done from a safe computer and make sure to remove the virus first.

More tips you can find on our forums, where you can also asks any questions about your ransomware problem.

How to Report Ransomware to Authorities?

In case your computer got infected with a ransomware infection, you can report it to the local Police departments. It can help authorities worldwide track and determine the perpetrators behind the virus that has infected your computer. Below, we have prepared a list with government websites, where you can file a report in case you are a victim of a cybercrime:

Cyber-security authorities, responsible for handling ransomware attack reports in different regions all over the world:

Reports may be responded to in different timeframes, depending on your local authorities.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *