It is called Ransomware for a good reason and the threat it poses to digital data is very real. In fact, the FBI says that, although the software has been around for years, it wasn’t until 2015 that Ransomware activity took a giant leap. A total of 2,453 complaints were recorded by the FBI which totaled losses of well over $1.6 million. That was up from the 2014 complaint total of 1,402. every year since, complaint figures have continued to climb and IT experts say 2018 will be no exception.
What is Ransomware?
Its name is fitting as 'ransom' is part of the process when this software invades computer data. What it essentially does is either threaten to publish your data or block you from it unless you pay a ransom. The ransom is generally in the $300 USD range. Some versions of Ransomware lock up your system but if you have some computer knowledge you may be able to reverse it. More advanced versions of the malware employ what is known as cryptoviral extortion. This version will encrypt your data and demand a ransom to decrypt it. This is where you would have to rely on the data recovery services of a professional.
Tips for protecting your data from attack
There are a few ‘common sense’ ways in which you can minimize the risk of an attack from Ransomware or any other type of malware. These simple tips can be implemented immediately to your daily online activities. They include the following:
1 – Beware of what you download
There are both good and bad downloads you can execute from the internet. In simple terms, avoid downloading any files from an untrusted site. An untrusted site would be a website or download site that you cannot verify as being a reputable one. In fact, a good rule of thumb to follow is to never download files if you have second thoughts or do not feel comfortable with the source of those files. Sometimes going with your gut feelings can save you much in the way of problems after the fact.
2 – Screen your email
One of the easiest ways to infect your computer is through email attachments. This is another place where you need to beware. If the email is from someone or someplace you do not recognize, it is best to delete and move on. A good antivirus program will help you in this department, however, unless you keep that program updated, your risk protection is reduced. The types of emails to be particularly suspicious of are those that say you may have won something or appear to be from credit card companies or banks requesting information from you. Whenever you feel uncomfortable about what you are being asked for in an email, contact the source via phone to confirm that the mailing is legitimate before proceeding.
3 – Back it up, buddy!
There is no better form of protection than an up-to-date backup of all your files. You should conduct a backup regularly and onto an external drive not connected to your existing computer system. By using an external drive you accomplish two things. First, you prevent the external drive from becoming infected as it is only being used to store a backup of all your data. Second, should your main computer come under attack by Ransomware or any other form of malware, you’ll have a full – and not infected – copy of everything that was on your computer. Backing up your data is always a good idea regardless.
4 – Stay up-to-date
Nothing keeps your computer system operating at its best than keeping all operating systems, software and antivirus programs up-to-date. When you run the latest versions of the programs and software you require, you are reducing the risk of any kind of outside attack on your data. Antivirus programs are frequently updated and when you receive a notification of a new version being available, do not hesitate to install or update it. Antivirus and firewall programs give you protection from all existing and new malware threats.
5 – Don’t give in
Finally, if by chance you have become the latest victim hit by Ransomware you must not give in to the demands to pay to get your data back. You have an option available to you through professional data recovery services. The reason why hackers continue to be successful with their malware attacks is that the victims they hit feel helpless and pay the demands in order to regain control of their computer data. Do not allow this to happen to you. Stop the attack in its tracks by not responding to the demands for money. Seek the help of a data recovery specialist instead and that should give you peace of mind.