What is Ransomware?
Ransomware stops you from using your PC and prevents access to your files. There are different types of ransomware, but all of them will prevent you from using your PC normally and put your files at risk. Usually, it will demand that you pay money (hence the “ransom”) to get access to your PC or files. It has also been known to make you complete surveys and install malware on your machine.
Ransomware can target any PC or user, whether it is a home computer, enterprise network, or servers used by a government agency or healthcare provider.
In short, ransomware can:
- Encrypt files so you can’t use them.
- Prevent you from accessing your computer.
- Stop your web browser (or other apps) from running.
What you need to know about ransomware and what to do if you get it:
The first step to preventing ransomware is to know the different types of ransomware that can target you. Ranging from mild to severe, some are much more serious than others. Scareware, though the name sounds well, scary, is actually not so scary. It consists of pop-up type messages claiming there was malware discovered on your PC. If you do nothing, you will likely be flooded with continuous pop-ups, but your files will essentially remain safe. A quick scan from your security software should take care of it. Tip: A legitimate antivirus or anti-malware program would not solicit customers in this way.
More of a threat than Scareware, Screen lockers can lock you out of your PC entirely. When lock-screen ransomware gets on your computer, a window will appear with an official-looking FBI or U.S. Department of Justice seal saying illegal activity has been detected on your computer and you must pay a fine. Obviously, this is false. Take your PC to your local IT provider for diagnostics. In order to recover control of your PC, you might need to do a full system restore. Tip: The FBI or U.S. Department of Justice would not freeze you out of your computer or demand payment for illegal activity. If you were a suspect of illegal activity, they would go through the appropriate legal channels.
Encrypting Ransomware is the true red alert. The people behind encrypting software seize your files and encrypt them, demanding payment in order to decrypt and return them to you. This type of Ransomware is more dangerous than the other types because once cybercriminals get ahold of your files, no security software or system restore can return them to you. Your files are gone – unless you pay the ransom. On top of that, even if you do pay the ransom there is no guarantee you will actually get those files back. Tip: While the FBI often recommends people just pay the ransom, cybersecurity professionals advise that complying with ransomware criminals just opens the door up for future attacks.
How to protect yourself from Ransomware in the first place:
It is a MUST to invest in trustworthy and reputable antivirus and antimalware software. Your antivirus should have active monitoring and threat detection capabilities. You should also layer on other applications that are specifically designed to thwart advanced malware attacks such as ransomware. These include anti-malware and anti-ransomware programs.
It is also always a good idea to create secure backups of your data on a regular basis. Backup your important data on USBs or an external hard drive – however, be sure to physically disconnect the devices from your computer after backing up, otherwise they can become infected with ransomware too (ransomware is relentless). Cloud storage is another option – we recommend using a server with high-level encryption and multiple-factor authentication.
Lastly, stay informed. Educate yourself on how to detect phishing campaigns, suspicious websites, and other online scams. If nothing else, exercise common sense – if it seems suspicious, it probably is.
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