What is “Ransomware”?

That’s something you never want to see.  Here’s some steps to protect yourself and it’s worth passing it on to your friends!

I’ll never forget the first time I personally saw a computer with ransomware on it.  A friend of mine asked me to look at her laptop and said that something was wrong.  It had the big message on the screen demanding payment because her files had been encrypted.  I’m sure the color drained from my face.  I had read about it before and I knew that there wasn’t anything she could do.  She didn’t have the money to pay the ransom and all her precious photos were behind a lock.   I felt so bad for her but that’s one thing that I couldn’t help her with.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t have antivirus installed on her computer and she may not have been very cautious where she clicked so that’s two problems we did talk about as we discussed how to reset her computer.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a program that gets installed on your computer through a trick email attachment, a visit to a malicious website, or even a fake ad that loads onto a website you visit.  Once installed, it will prevent you from accessing your files on your computer until you pay the person on the other end to give you the key.   There’s two problems with that:  1. Most people don’t have extra money laying around to give to a thief.  2. Paying them only makes them keep going and steal from more people.

How To Protect Yourself from Ransomware

Step 1: Antivirus and Malware Protection
The absolute first thing you need to do is install a real time protection program on your computer.  You need a good antivirus program and I even recommend running a malware program alongside it such as Malwarebytes.   Malwarebytes actually has a premium version that will help protect your computer from ransomware.

Step 2: Regular Backups
While I think it’s a great idea to have an extra internal hard drive for backups, ransomware can and will encrypt any drive that is connected to the infected one.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a regular backup solution that is in “the cloud” but make sure it’s well protected with two factor authentication.  Another step is to have an offline backup on an external hard drive.  Yes, it’s more of an effort and time consuming but it’s the best protection you can get for your important files.  You can get the kind that just plug right into your computer and you can drag and drop your files, then store it somewhere safe.

What if I’m already infected?

Step 1: Do NOT pay them.  They could take your money and not give you the key to unlock your files.  They are criminals after all.  There is no guarantee they will do what they say they will even after they have your money.  Not only that, by paying them, you are encouraging them to do this to others.  You are showing them that this method of stealing works.

Step 2: If you have a friend in tech support, contact them first.  They might know if the ransomware on your computer has a decrypt program available.  It’s rare, but it is possible.

Step 3: Restore your computer from the backup that you hopefully already have in storage.

Further Reading:

If you want to read further about Ransomware, I recommend this section of Malwarebyte’s website.
Malwarebytes Ransomware Information – https://www.malwarebytes.com/ransomware/