Ransomware is a nasty type of malware that restricts access to the host computer system it infects, and demands that the owner of the infected system pay a ransom to the malware’s creator to have the restrictions removed.
One of the most infamous ransomwares was Cryptolock back in 2013, which made its operators tens of millions of dollars until it was shut down by authorities in May 2014. Other ransomwares are still out there, and data-nappers have now been going after mobile devices as well.
How Ransomware Infects Your Computer
Oftentimes people will receive a message, usually in the form of a pop-up, while they are using the Internet. The message tells them they have done something illegal and that they have to pay a fine to the government. The claim is false, but those who don’t know better will click on the pop-up and thusly invite the malware to encrypt important files or lock you out of your computer.
Other ways in which your computer can become infected include:
- Spam emails
- Hacked or compromised webpages
- Infected removable drives
- Bundled with other software
Once the files have been encrypted, you enter into a hostage-like situation: pay the ransom and get your files back, or else. Know that if this ever does happen to you, do not pay the ransom. There is no guarantee that you will be granted access to your files after you pay. Also, giving them money leaves you susceptible to further attacks. Providing them with banking information gives them the ability to siphon off more money from you.
What to Do if Your Computer Becomes Infected
The best thing to do in a ransomware situation is to restore your computer from a backup. This, of course, requires that you have one.
Those who have a good backup process in place should be able to easily recover the encrypted data by recovering an image of their computer system’s data that predates the day it became infected.
For the recovery method to be useful, multiple copies of the data should be kept that go back months. This will help to make sure you have a clean backup that predates the attack. Any backups made between the time of the infection and when the attack is noticed will be encrypted, making them unrecoverable.
This is why it’s a good idea to have online backups that function automatically and incrementally. Storing your backups online takes the stress out of having to manage them on-site. Although, having two forms of backups is never a bad idea, even if it does require some extra time.
Ways to Protect Against Ransomware Attacks
- Install and use up-to-date antivirus software.
- Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments to emails from unknown sources.
- Run a pop-up blocker on your web browser.
- Regularly backup important files
- Turn on your firewall
If your computer ever becomes infected by ransomware and you don’t know what to do, contact an IT company for help.