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First published: 16th December 2016
Help is at hand for victims of ransomware. The website No More Ransom provides free tools to decrypt locked files.
Ransomware is malicious software that makes user's data inaccessible and then demands payment for release of the data. It is not a new idea, the AIDS trojan was circulated in 1989, but following the money trail to the criminal made it a solvable crime. That changed with the advent of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and there has been a rapid rise in ransomware incidents since 2015. Modern ransomware uses strong cryptography to make the data unrecoverable without the key, and cryptocurrency to make the ransom payment untraceable.
The best advice is to avoid becoming a victim: take regular offline backups and protect against malicious software.
However, there is hope for some victims. Security researchers have found that some ransomware is "flawed" and the decryption keys can be discovered. The No More Ransom website brings these tools, produced and released for free by different IT security companies, together in one, easily-accessible place. The website is an initiative by the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ police, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre and two cyber security companies – Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security.
Apart from helping ransomware victims, the site aims to disrupt the profitability of ransomware by providing a free alternative to paying the criminals.