What is Ransomware?
Alright, Let's start with the basics. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Cyber criminals use encryption methods to lock all the files on your computer so you can't open them. You want your pictures, documents, and music back? You'll have to pay the ransom and hope the criminals on the other end follow through and unlock your computer for you once they've been paid.
The FBI recommends not paying the ransom. In a sense you are just feeding the monster by doing so, and making more and more cyber criminals turn to ransomware attacks as an easy method of extorting money. Which is a good reason to not pay up for sure. The more selfishly compelling reason? Most cyber criminals don't care to follow through on their end of the bargain, taking your money, and leaving you with a locked computer!
How Did I Get Infected With Ransomware?
There are multiple ways to get infected. The most common is E-mail, either a bad link, or a nasty attachment. According to Osterman Research, Inc. 59% of all Ransomware comes in through your inbox.
Another 24% come directly from websites. Yes even legit websites such as new organizations can be hacked and rain ransomware down upon unsuspecting visitors! After that there is a small percentage of computers infected from Social Media or USB Stick. While a whopping 9% remain that we just don't know where it came from.
How do I protect Myself?
Glad you asked! Here are 10 ways to protect yourself from Malware.
1. Back Up Your Files Regularly!
It may seem simple, but how many of you are actually backing up your computer on the regular? If you get attacked by ransomware the easiest and cheapest thing to do, is just restore from yesterday's backup.
2. Check Your Backups!
"I do backup, all the time" you say, but do you actually check your backups to make sure they are completing correctly? This simple step will save you heartache if you turn to your backups to save the day only to find they'd been corrupted or didn't complete the last time Windows backup or Apple Time Machine ran.
3. Protect Against Phishing Attacks!
Really take the time to get trained on common phishing attacks and make sure you don't fall for them. You don't want to be running for president or something only to fall for that old "I'm a Prince from Nigeria" scam, how embarrassing that would be!
4. Verify you are dealing with a Trusted individual.
Are you sure that link was sent by Mary? Does it seem odd that she would send you a link and only say "Hey, check this out?" Odds are if Mary doesn't usually do that, then this isn't Mary. Double check the e-mail she's sending from, not the name, but the actual e-mail address.
If you hover over the link, a pop up will appear and show you the web address it's taking you to. Does that seem like a trusted address? An amazon.com, or Facebook.com? Read it carefully before clicking, there's a big difference between Facebook.com and Facbook.com
5. Enable "Show File Extensions" In Your Computer Settings.
Make sure it's really a PDF file that you're opening and not something disguised to look like a harmless picture, but in reality is an executable file. Executable files have ".exe" extensions at the end. They are often installing a program, which can be good if your installing Microsoft Office, but can be bad if a hacker makes you think you're opening a PDF and really they're installing ransomware!
For Mac instructions go here. For Windows instructions go here.
6. Regularly Update Your Operating System.
I know you have that friend who tells you, "If you never update you don't run into problems." But if you never update, you don't get the patches that fix holes in the security of your system. No system is perfect or impervious. That's why they run security updates as companies like Microsoft and Apple find flaws.
This goes for your phones too! keep them up to date!
7. Use A Robust Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware Program to Protect Your System.
Or use a Mac.
Seriously though, Malwarebytes is a great free utility that will catch a lot of stuff. Or check out ESET or KASPERSKY for a full blown anti-virus suite of tools.
What if I'm Already Infected With Ransomware?
8. Turn off or unplug your internet connection immediately.
This will insure that no further damage happens to your computer.
9. Don't Pay The Ransom.
As we stated above, the FBI recommends not paying the ransom. In a sense you are just feeding the monster by doing so, and making more and more cyber criminals turn to ransomware attacks as an easy method of extorting money. Which is a good reason to not pay up for sure. The more selfishly compelling reason? Most cyber criminals don't care to follow through on their end of the bargain, taking your money, and leaving you with a locked computer!
10. Try to Identify the Malware.
Some older Ransomware tools have been cracked, in which case you can un-encrypt your files yourself or have an IT professional assist you. A great website for this is NoMoreRansom.org which can help you identify and combat your infection.
Still Need Help?
We're always just a phone call away! Give us a call at (505) 289-0086 or shoot us an e-mail and we'd be happy to help you fight against cyber criminals!