Bad guys using ransoms to extort money from innocent people isn’t just something you see in the movies anymore. Every day, people’s computers and everything on them are being held hostage unless a ransom is paid. This threat isn’t targeted at just businesses, it is very opportunistic, and infecting anyone it can.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the data on an infected computer. All of your precious family photos, videos and important documents, once encrypted, will no longer be accessible without the encryption key – which you can get only if you pay the amount the extortionist demands. This could be hundreds or thousands of dollars. What is your information worth to you?
Fortunately there is a better way to protect yourself than paying the ransom. By taking a few simple steps, you can avoid falling victim to this money making scheme:
- Back up your important files to a secondary location – Online Cloud Storage and USB attached hard drives are two great ways to back up what matters to you most in a second secure location. Don’t worry about program files as they can be restored from the source. Tax files, photos, videos, Word or Excel documents, are the types of files you want to ensure are backed up to a second location.
- DO NOT keep your backup storage attached to your computer – Some systems allow you the ability to automate the backup of files to a secondary location. Be careful, the ransomware is often sophisticated enough to encrypt your backup drives if it sees them and has access.
- Think twice before clicking on links or downloading attachments – Links or attachments within Phishing emails and social media sites like Facebook could be a trap that once sprung, sets into motion the chain of events caused by ransomware. Be very suspicious and ask yourself if it is really worth it to see whatever it is someone sent you.
If you become a victim of ransomware and you followed the steps above to back up your important files to a secure second location, don’t pay the ransom. Take your computer into a local reputable computer repair shop to have it restored and then copy your important files back onto your computer from your back up.
Law enforcement doesn’t recommend paying the ransom, although it’s up to you to determine whether the risks and costs of paying are worth the possibility of getting your files back. If you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back. In fact, agreeing to pay signals to criminals that you haven’t backed up your files. Knowing this, they could increase the ransom price – and may delete or deny access to your files anyway. Even if you get your files back, they may be corrupted and you might be a target for other scams.
Check back for more information on the next Mercantile Bank Security Minute.