Ransomware continues to be an attractive method for cybercriminals to target individuals for a cash ransom. The malware enters a computer and encrypts all of your important data files, essentially holding them ransom. The only way for you to regain access to your data is to pay – typically in an untraceable transaction such as cryptocurrency.
Ransomware is increasingly popular because it is simple to perform, and the attackers remain anonymous due to the non-traceable money transaction. A victim of a ransomware attack will be greeted with a splash screen displaying a message that your files are encrypted – with further instructions on how to pay.
In Texas, a recent attack hit 22 cities and towns. The attackers demanded millions in payment.
Ransomware has hit hospitals, courts, schools, and many cities across the US. For non-business home computer users, attackers can make the payment rather low – perhaps four-hundred dollars. This payment can be attractive to the victim as worth it to regain access.
So what can you do? How can you protect yourself? Let’s being by stepping back and looking at this from another view. How do I know the attacker will restore my files once I pay the ransom? The short answer is – you don’t know. In the event of a ransomware attack, the bigger question is – how would I recover from this on my own? This is the fundamental key to recovering from getting hit with ransomware.
Outsmarting the attacker with recovery preparation:
Backup all of your important files – documents, spreadsheets, and images. For under $20, a USB flash drive can store copies of your important files.
Copy your important files and store this data recovery gold mine somewhere off-site. Give to a parent or trusted friend to store in a known location. Never keep backup files on an external device that is connected to your computer or network! A recent attack has resulted in the backup files being encrypted as well, prompting payment.
The strategy is simple. Recovery, not prevention. While antivirus is a must, clicking on a malicious email link appearing to be from a friend can launch the ransomware.
In the industry, we call it “nuking the computer.” A fresh install of the operating system (most computers ship with a recovery disk) followed by copying back your saved files – and you have recovered from a ransomware attack. Backup and store your documents, spreadsheets, and those family photos somewhere safe and you’ll be ready to fight back.