The use of Ransomware is on the rise, and everyone from big business to should be aware of what it is.
What Is Ransomware?
At its most basic form, ransomware is a virus that encrypts all the files and photo's on your hard drive and locks you out of using them. There are many variations, but it usually begins with an innocent-looking download, link or web page that has a malicious virus lurking beneath. When you click on the page or the link, the virus is unleashed and all of your data is locked by encryption. You won't be able to access any of the information on your device. Then you will receive a message asking you to pay a ransom into an online account, usually using "cryptocurrency" such as Bitcoin to have your files released. If you fail to pay in a certain time, all of your files are deleted.
That's how Ransomware gets its name - by holding you to ransom. It's how full-time hackers make their money.
It's worth noticing that just recently, the local governments of two American cities paid a total of 1.1 million dollars between them to hackers because of Ransomware.
So what can you do to prevent this?
Educating yourself is the first step. Read up on articles that show you how to identify dangerous links. Here's one that I wrote to help you get started...
Install protective software such as "HTTPS Anywhere" and "Acronis Ransomware Protection". There are many good options to help you prevent an attack. Start saving your files to a reputable cloud storage service such as OneDrive, or Dropbox is critical as they often have a "version history" that allows you to go back to a previous date and restore your files. And create regular backups of your data.
"Backups?" I hear you say! Who does those?
A critically important step that so many home users and businesses seem to miss are back-ups. Think of back-ups as a safety harness for your data. What would happen if your Hard Drive failed or you are infected with Ransomware? If you don't have a recently made back-up, you could be sunk. Many people see Cloud Storage as a back-up, and in a limited sense, they are correct. But what if you can't access the cloud, or if an important file is deleted from the cloud? If you don't have a back-up, your data could be irretrievably lost. We will be looking at back-ups and how to do them in the next few posts. But, if you have a back-up, you are in a great position to recover from Ransomware and it's demands.
Final thoughts on Ransomware
Virus attacks and Ransomware will become more prevalent as we move into the future. But prevention is better than cure, and you don't have to be a victim. Stay informed, take preventative steps and stay ahead of the hackers. And if you do get hit with Ransomware, there are options to take BEFORE you pay up
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Next up - why your backup strategy matters!