What is Ransomware?
Ransomware infects your computer with malicious software and locks it, demanding a payment to have it unlocked. It encrypts your computer files and scrambled their contents so that you are unable to access it without the decryption key. In order to get the decryption key, though, you must be a ransom fee. Once the ransomware infects your computer it spreads throughout the network. The ransom fee is generally just a few hundred dollars so that the user will pay it to get control back. The payment is generally expected in virtual currency so that it cannot be traced.
How Does It Happen? Like other malware, ransomware may come through malicious links, email attachments, or exploit kits (when visiting compromised websites). Exploit kits test computers for vulnerabilities and flaws, which are frequently found in outdated software. When it finds an opening, it downloads and installs ransomware. Use an anti-virus that alerts you when you’re about to enter a compromised website, or one that has been reported previously. If your computer does send an alert, take its advice and avoid that website unless you know you can trust it.
How To Take Back Control
As tempting as it is- doesn’t pay the ransom, as this merely encourage cybercriminals to continue propagating this method of malware. Instead, ensure that you are backing up your files regularly- if you do get attacked there is no need to panic because everything can be restored from backups. Additionally, even when the cybercriminal gives control back you don’t know that you are fully in control. You may pay the ransom and still not have full control. Now, if you haven’t backed up your files and you have been hijacked there are plenty of decryption tools that can repair the problem. Perhaps the most important step, though, is reporting the crime. The FBI has a cyber-crimes unit and tracks attacks, so contacting the police when you fall prey to ransomware plays an important part in preventing future attacks.
Tips to Avoid Ransomware
Prevention is always better than searching for a cure, so here are 5 tips to keep your systems ransomware free.
- Regular Backups– it’s a total must, backup your system regularly and store those backups offline. To ensure they work to test them from time to time. If you get hit, the backups are going to get you back on track.
- Anti-Virus– your security solution should be robust and cover all of your devices. Ensure you keep it updated.
- Regular Updates- to prevent vulnerabilities in your system, ensure you keep all of the software up to date. Suggest automatic updates or a tool that will alert you when updates are required.
- Beware of Attachments– if you receive an email from someone you don’t know, don’t open the links, files, or documents- especially office documents and ZIP files.
- Browser Plugins– Silverlight and Flash Player have commonly exploited plugins, so if you’re not actively using them you should disable them to prevent ransomware. This can be done under plugin settings on your web browser.