What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a special type of malware that is actively spreading across the Internet today, threatening to destroy victim’s documents and other files. Malware is software – a computer program – used to perform malicious actions. While ransomware is just one of many different types of malware, it has become very common because it is very profitable for criminals. Once ransomware infects your computer, it encrypts certain files on your hard drive or files on network shared drives. It can even encrypt files on a USB attached portable hard drive or device. Once this happens you are locked out of the system or unable to access important files. The malware will then inform you that the only way you can decrypt your files and recover your system is to pay the cybercriminal a ransom.
Ransomware can be delivered via email attachments or by clicking on a link that takes you to the attacker’s website.
Should You Pay the Ransom?
The problem is that the more often people pay these criminals when they are infected, the more motivated criminals are to infect others. On the other hand, you may have no other option to recover your files. Be warned though, even if you do pay the ransom (usually through some form of digital currency such as Bitcoin), there is no guarantee you will get your files back. You are dealing with criminals after all. Even if they do provide you with a decryption method in exchange for paying them something may go wrong during the decryption process or your computer may be infected with additional malware.
Back Up Your Files
Perhaps the best way to recover from a ransomware infection and not pay a ransom is to recover your files from backups. At work, the best way to do this is to make sure your important files are stored on an authorized server shared folder which is likely backed up regularly. For home PC’s, backing up to external drives that are not always connected to your system is a good choice or use a reputable cloud-based service. Do not use a cloud-based service for work related files unless it has been approved.
Further Protective Measures
Moreover, you can protect yourself from ransomware attacks the same way you would against other types of malware; don’t get infected. Start by making sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software with up-to-date signatures. Never disable your anti-virus protection. Keep in mind that anti-virus cannot block or remove all malicious programs but it does provide some measure of protection.
Cybercriminals often trick people into installing malware for them. They might send you an email that looks legitimate and contains an attachment or a link. Perhaps the email appears to come fro your bank or a friend. However, if you were to open the attached file or click on the link, you would activate malicious code that installs malware on your system. If a message creates a strong sense of urgency, is confusing, seems too good to be true, or has poor grammar, it could be an attack. Be suspicious. Common sense is your best defense.
Protect yourself from ransomware by remaining vigilant when opening email attachments or clicking on links, ensuring you have updated anti-virus software, and confirming your files are regularly backed up and can be restored.