How to remove ransomware: Use this battle plan to fight back

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Ransomware doesn’t sneak into your PC like ordinary malware. It bursts in, points a gun at your data, and screams for cash—or else. And if you don’t learn to defend yourself, it could happen again and again, as the Petya (or NotPetya) outbreak is demonstrating.

A form of ransomware similar to a piece of malware called Petya has attacked the Ukraine and other sites around the globe, encrypting files until a ransom has been paid. Researchers, though, have moved quickly to block the spread of the ransomware, also known as Petrwrap, exPetr, Petna, and SortaPetya. There’s no real way to remove the Petya ransomware, but researchers have come up with a way to “immunize” your PC, and malware companies are already working to block it.

Petya is the second major ransomware outbreak in the last two months, following WannaCry, which appeared to leverage software the National Security Agency developed, and was then turned into malware. It struck the U.K. National Health Service and several other banks and organizations.

Armed gangs of digital thieves roaming the information superhighway sounds like an overwrought action movie, but the numbers say it’s true: Ransomware attacks rose from 3.8 million in 2015 to 638 million in 2016, an increase of 167 times year over year, according to Sonicwall—even as the number of malware attacks declined. Why steal data when you can simply demand cash?

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