Being careful online is one important way of staying safe, but it alone can never be enough. Particularly insofar as modern digital criminals so often combine deep determination with real cleverness and resourcefulness, too many generally careful people still become victims. While systems like antivirus programs and firewalls that block suspicious activities can help, there are times when even these measures might fail. As many victims of malicious programs that encrypt valuable files before demanding a ransom will attest, life and business can quickly change for the worse even when everything seems to be in order.
In most cases, an attack by a ransom-demanding piece of software will result in a great many files being encrypted and made inaccessible. Once that dirty work has been done, the software will then normally issue an ultimatum, threatening to destroy the key needed to unlock the data unless a ransom is paid before a set deadline. Given as little as a day or two, in some cases, to react, many people and organizations have decided simply to give in. While that might restore access to important files, it can be a costly response that also emboldens criminals to continue in their illicit activities.
In quite a few such situations today, responding in this fashion is not actually necessary. Most modern cryptographic algorithms are essentially unbreakable by blunt, straightforward means, which means that simply trying every possible combination of bytes is not likely to help. On the other hand, having access to the key that was originally used to encrypt the files in question will often be all that it takes to reverse the damage immediately.
Fortunately, digital criminals are sometimes sloppier than they could be, and some have left behind telltale traces of their activities that have been leveraged to great effect by the experts. As a result, more than one decryption tool has been developed that can reverse the encryption applied by common forms of ransom-oriented malicious software, without anything being paid to the criminals who operate it. Those who find themselves under attack by such software today therefore often do well to seek out the advice of an expert in order to establish whether an option like this might be available.