Maybe you pop open your laptop to begin work for the day (or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook…no judgement here) and you’re greeted not with your friendly Internet browser, but a big, red ransom note. Your computer has been taken over by dreaded ransomware. The message demands that you pay a hefty sum in the next 24 hours or the contents of your computer will be erased. Oh, no! Ransomware is the newest devious way criminals are stealing from unsuspecting computer users. Let’s examine exactly what ransomware is and how you can protect yourself.
What is Ransomware?
In the past, malware was more passive in stealing your information. Malware like keyloggers, trojans and backdoors would lie in wait on your computer for you to enter personal info like your social security number or credit card number. Once hackers had this information, they sold or used it. Then they began to develop the much more aggressive and instantaneous source of ill-gotten income, ransomware. Common ransomware viruses include Cryptowall, Cryptolocker and TeslaCrypt. These viruses hit the Internet hard at the end of 2013 and have been floating around ever since.
Ransomware was an unknown virus, so when it first hit the Internet it was able to infect many computers through botnets, untrustworthy downloads and phishing links in emails. If you were infected with ransomware, you could try to reset your computer until you were blue in the face and all you could see was the ransom note screen. In many cases, if you paid the ransom your computer was restored. Ransom was often demanded in Bitcoin or MoneyGram payments sent to untraceable accounts.
And it gets worse! You might think you’re safe because you stick to using the Internet primarily on a mobile device or tablet. Is nothing sacred to these hackers? Not even Apple iOS devices were safe from ransomware. Mobile devices were getting similar viruses that would lock down the device and threaten to wipe it clean unless you paid the ransom. Fortunately, most mobile devices automatically back up vital information to the cloud, so this hacker campaign was not nearly as successful.
How to Combat Ransomware
Practice safe Internet use. If something looks fishy (or phishy) don’t click on it. Don’t download suspicious looking attachments. Don’t visit sites that aren’t reputable. Have the most up-to-date version of virus software installed on your computer and run regular scans.
But even with these best practices you might not be fully protected. Hackers are creating new software all the time and antivirus software can’t always keep up. And that is the scary part. The only surefire way to combat ransomware is to back up early and often. Make backing up your whole system part of your daily routine. You can back up to the cloud or to an external hard drive. Then if they threatened to delete your whole system, you can kick back and relax knowing they truly can’t touch your files because they’re stored elsewhere.
If you want more information about backing up and securing your computer, call us at 703-881-7738. We worry about IT so you don’t have to.
CMIT Solutions of Northern Virginia provides a strategic approach to IT consulting that improves performance of your business technology in the most cost-effective way possible. Assisting businesses in Centreville, Chantilly, Dulles, Gainesville, Manassas and Haymarket, we can help you achieve the fastest return on your technology investment. Call 703-881-7738 today to see how we can help your business stay in business.