Trust us when we say Ransomware will make you shed a tear. Honestly, It is that bad.
Spare a few minutes and follow these simple steps to save you time and money.
Ransomware is, in our opinion, the worse of the breed. This malicious software, also known as "malware", has for many years wreaked havoc on personal and business computers throughout the world, and unfortunately has become a part of everyday cyber attacks. While ransomware is delivered in many forms, the main infection causes are primarily through innocent looking email attachments and websites. The software installs itself after opening unsuspecting attachments or through various popups that warn a user their computer is infected and needs attention. It then runs as a background process on your computer and continuously monitors the activity waiting to infect files, folders and other applications.
The effects of Ransomware range from simple screen locking to advanced and more severe file encryption . While fixing some of the lesser infections is fairly straight forward, decrypting files is a whole other story and in some cases, it is almost impossible to rescue the files without paying the ransom, which we DO NOT recommend. If you do pay the criminals involved, you are not only providing them funds for continual development of this software, but you are also not guaranteed that they will actually restore your files.
Luckily there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your computer. As they say, prevention is the best cure.
Step 1: Backup, Backup, Backup
We cannot stress this enough because you can never have enough backups. Storing your files and folders in the backup location on your computer as well as offline will greatly reduce the risk of data loss.
Two methods we encourage, one is more cost effective, while the other is more convenient.
- Create a regular copy of all your files and folders on a connected external USB drive, and in addition, mirror the contents onto a second USB drive that you disconnect and store safely in a drawer or cupboard, we call this an 'offline' backup. Although this is the cheaper method, it does mean you need to maintain backup schedules and associated disks.
- Using a cloud service such as Dropbox, or Google Drive is definitely more convenient as the online backup service will appear as a drive on your computer which you can save files directly to, or set up a backup schedule to make an exact copy of your data during the hours your computer is doing nothing. The added benefit to this method is your files are accessible from any computer, and the majority of these services offer versioning, meaning you can restore previous versions of files.
Step 2: Do Not Click Suspicious Email Attachments Or Website Advertisements
As a general rule of thumb, we suggest you treat each and every email as suspicious. This includes messages from family, friends or even well-known, legitimate companies. It is not uncommon for other people to also be infected with viruses, and considering how sophisticated these applications are, they're smart enough to be able to send emails from anyone they wish without that person knowing.
Large corporate companies like AGL or PayPal are all too often caught up in these emails where criminals 'spoof' addresses or in layman's terms, make a message appear to look like it came from a specific company. These emails will sometimes have attachments and a note to tempt you into opening them. For example, asking you to have a look at some recent photos, or to view a monthly electricity bill. Don't do it. If you feel the email is legit, we still suggest you send a separate email to the person from which is came and ask them to confirm if the email received is safe to open the attachment. Only once you receive a positive response you can feel confident the attachments are good.
Another great habit to perform is checking the file extension, and make sure it is in the extension you expect, such as a .PDF or .DOCX etc If the extension is listed as .JS or .VBS to name a few, be afraid, be very afraid! But in order to do this, you need to enable the viewing of file extensions.
Step 3: Patch And Protect
Making your machine as difficult as possible for the malware to infect is probably one of the best forms of defence you can choose. Download and install both anti-malware such as MalwareBytes, and anti-virus such as Avast. Both of these applications have a great reputation in the tech world, however, any well-known software will do. These programmes usually work together in detecting and removing unwanted software, and they do it real-time.
Further to protecting your files and folders, we recommend you enable your Windows firewall. This will not only keep intruders from being able to connect to your Operating System, but it will prevent any malicious software from being able to transfer data to and from your computer.
Enabling higher level user permissions will also vastly improve your security. By restricting users from being able to install or open certain files the chances of infection are reduced significantly.
Step 4: Shutdown And Disconnect
In the case of infection you need to take the appropriate action to stop the infection and limit the damage. If you feel that you may have accidently opened a questionable file, never turn your computer off at the wall socket, rather shut it down safely using the start button. This allows all applications to exit gracefully. We also strongly suggest you remove your network cable in case the computer is accidentally turned back on. Once you are happy everything is safe, call your local computer technician and let them know what has happened.