Ransomware is a type of malware which blocks access to parts of your computer and then demands a fee to unblock it. In some cases, this type of malware encrypts all your files and renders them completely inaccessible. You are then asked to pay a ransom to decrypt your files.
The first ransomware was detected in 1989 and it was called “AIDS Trojan”. It spread all over the world on compromised floppy disks. Infected users were then told to send $189 to a PO Box in Panama in order to get access to their files. Since this time, malware has become more advanced. Nowadays, ransomware can spread very quickly over the internet, encryption algorithms have become more complex, and more people are being infected.
Creators of ransomware will target home users for a number of reasons. Firstly, home users are an easy target as many people have little or no knowledge about cyber security and lack even the most basic security software. On top of this, many home users won’t have backups of their data and are more likely to pay the ransom to retrieve their data.
It’s important to know how to keep yourself protected from ransomware as the results can be devastating. In some cases, it’s not possible to decrypt the data without paying.
If you make regular backups of your data, then you can restore your data from a previous backup. However, you should ensure that your backup system is robust enough to survive a ransomware attack. The best thing to do is to keep a number of backups in various locations.
Cloud storage has become a popular method for backing up data and many cloud storage companies provide virus scans which can detect rogue programs and stop them from spreading. However, you shouldn’t solely rely on 3rd parties to protect your data as it’s possible that data held by 3rd parties could become infected too.
Some ransomware attackers also target backup systems and encrypt them too. Ensure that you have at least one backup which isn’t physically connected to any computer. After the backup process has completed, you should remove the drive, keep it safe, and don’t plug it into a computer which you know or suspect to be infected.
In the event of an attack, you can then restore your data to a clean computer. If you connect an external drive to an infected machine, it’s possible that the malware will spread to your drive.
Stay Safe Online
The internet is routinely used to send viruses to unsuspecting users. This can be done via hacked or rogue websites, emails, and social networks. If you receive something which seems suspicious, don’t open it. Many scam emails will try to trick you into opening a file which looks like a normal document. However, this document will often have malware attached to it.
Similarly, many rogue websites will try to trick you into downloading and installing unwanted software. On top of this, some adverts displayed on ‘trusted’ websites can also deliver malware to your computer. In the early part of 2016, the BBC’s website published adverts which were found to contain malicious code.
Use real-time applications which can scan websites and emails as you view them. This will help to keep you safe from attacks.
Ensure that your operating system is always up to date with the latest security patches. Windows 10 and other operating systems will routinely send out security patches which will help to protect your computer. You should also ensure that you update all software and drivers when updates are available. This will also help to keep your system as secure as possible.
If your computer has already become infected, then most anti-malware programs won’t be able to help. Instead, use programs such as Malwarebytes to protect your computer from becoming infected in the first place.
As a minimum, you should ensure that you scan email attachments and files downloaded from the internet before you open them. It would be best to set your anti-virus software to scan your system in real time. This will ensure that all new files are automatically scanned in the background as you download them.
Ransomware attacks have become a big problem and they can be devastating for people who keep important data on their computer. Once you’ve become infected with ransomware, it’s usually too late to do anything about it.
You can prevent yourself from becoming a victim by making restorable backups, using anti-virus software in real time, keeping your computer up to date, and not opening anything which seems suspicious.