Out of all the computer viruses out there, ransomware is one of the most frightening! A fairly new kind of online threat, ransomware is a devastating threat to both individuals and companies alike.
What Is A Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware is a kind of computer virus that seizes your computer and its data and holds it for ransom until you pay the crooks who created the virus to unlock it.
Just removing the virus from your computer isn’t an option because the ransomware holds it hostage and encrypts your personal data. In order to read the encrypted data, you need to have a secret code or password. This, in essence, forces you to give in to their demands and pay what they are asking. However, even if you do pay, there is no guarantee that they will unlock your computer.
Frequently, ransom messages look like they are coming from the FBI, the police or other esteemed sources, but none of these organizations would encrypt your data and seize you PC.
Here are a few notorious ransomware viruses that have popped up in the past three years: Petya, WannaCry, TeslaCrypt, Crptowall and CryptoLocker.
How Does Ransomware Spread?
Ransomware began its extensive spread, like a lot of other online threats, via emails. Hackers are capable of quickly altering ransomware code and making it invisible to anti-virus software that depends on identifying known variants. This malware usually spreads by ads and email attachments placed on unsecure websites.
This serves as a warning to never click on any links or download any attachments in emails sent by strangers. You have no idea what could be lurking inside. If you do get an email from someone you know and trust, but the content looks weird or you’re suspicious of the attachment, it is better to not open it. You can just ask the person who sent it if they really did send you the email.
Can Ransomware Be Prevented?
Keeping reputable anti-virus software up-to-date and active on your computer can help block a ransomware attack. Ransomware, similar to other viruses, frequently searches for vulnerabilities in your software that it can take advantage of and then infect your whole computer. This is why it’s vital to keep your web browser, other programs and, particularly, your operating systm up to date. This is invariably the wisest and best way to stay safe.
Ahhhh! I’ve Been Attacked! What Do I Do Now?
As previously mentioned, you can remove the ransomware virus, but it doesn’t solve the problem because your files have been encrpyted and you can’t access them.
Some variations of ransomware have been “fixed” and it is worth performing a search on Google to find out if you can get an available decryption tool; however, most ransomware continues to be unsolved. In such cases, the only way to decrypt and get your files back is to give in and pay the ransom.
Keep in mind though, that paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee that they will decrypt your files and will indicate to the hackers that you’re a great target for their future attacks.
Therefore, the best defense is a good offense when it comes to ransomware so backup all your valuable documents and files somewhere else besides your computer to keep them safe.
By doing so, you can delete the encrypted data, remove the ransom virus and wipe your computer clean. Then replace your data with copies from your backup. You can create a backup either with a cloud based service or an external hard drive. Let’s look at these options.
External Hard Drives
External hard drives present an easy and fast solution to backing up your files and are reasonably affordable. What’s nice about external hard drives is that it’s a one-time payment when you compare it to cloud storage which is based on a subscription. The advantage to an external hard drive is that your files are stored offline.
TIP: When making a backup, be certain to scan your data for infections first so you are not copying the ransomware!
Backing up to the cloud is essentially the same as backing up to an external hard drive because your data is stored somewhere other than your computer. However, there have been incidences where ransomware has accessed cloud storage and caused havoc. If you decide to use cloud storage, you should find out from the company what security measures they have in place to keep your data protected from ransomware.
Cloud storage does have exclusive benefits:
- You can access your files anytime and anywhere. Did you accidentally leave your laptop at home? You want to show a friend a great picture of your dog, but it’s saved on your computer? No worries. Just login to the cloud and download it.
- Collaborating on a work project or want to share the family picnic photos with Aunt Betsy? A lot of cloud storage systems have folder sharing. So, you can share a particular folder with many people.
Here are a few things to keep in mind …
While there is free online cloud storage, which is typically limited and fairly small, you’ll be required to purchase an on-going subscription in order to get more space.
Transferring files to and from the cloud can be slow if it’s a large file or your internet connection isn’t very fast.
Although all cloud service providers encrypt your files to keep them safe, breeches in security are possible.
When it comes to backing up your data, both online cloud storage and external hard drives are great ways to backup your data,
Check out this video:
The Bottom Line
So, I hope I’ve been of some help by answering your question, what is a ransomware attack? As I mentioned previously, a good defense is a great offense. Remember to always keep your computer’s operating system, and anti-virus software up to date and backup your files.
Have you ever been a victim or ransomware? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.
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