Imagine you’ve been working hard to create a new presentation for work or an official document or a personal photograph album. When you finally finish the work, a message appears on screen that says
“All of the files on this computer have been encrypted. You have 24 hours to submit payment to receive the encryption key, otherwise your files will be permanently destroyed."
That’s Ransomware and there are many millions of Ransomware attacks each year.
This could be lies – it could just be an empty threat, but it could also be very real and if you don’t pay then your files may be lost permanently.
What do you do?
Step 1: disconnect from the Internet immediately.
Step 2 : Make a choice on whether to pay
If you pay, then maybe you get your files back and maybe not.
If you choose not to pay then switch the computer off and get it to an expert ASAP.
There are several types of Ransomware attack.
They try to frighten you into paying by claiming your PC has a virus or that the files will be encrypted etc. if you don’t pay. But it’s false and nothing happens if you don’t pay. If you recognise an attack as being just scareware then shut down your computer then restart and do a full virus scan.
2. Screen Lockup
This locks up your PC and wont let go until you pay up. A little work by you or an expert can break the lockout if you choose to. You may need to restore your system or let the experts work on it.
Sometimes the lockup is on a screen designed to look like an FBI page warning that you have committed an illegal act and must pay a fine or it may appear to a UK Police Force or some other authority. It is all fake of course as the FBI and other authorities do not practice blackmail.
3. Ransomware That Encrypts Your Files
This is the most dangerous as even experts may not be able to retrieve your files. It can be a choice of pay-up or lose your files. Even paying does not guarantee they will give you the key to decrypt your files.
The following actions can help you to prevent Ransomware attacks:-
Step 1: Make sure you have anti-virus software running to protect your computer all of the time and do regular full disk scans for viruses.
Step 2: Install anti-malware software to protect your PC against other dangerous threats other than viruses.
Step 3: Make regular backups of all important documents so you can retrieve those documents if you need to.
This also good practice in case of data corruption.
Step 4: Your anti-virus and anti-malware software will only protect you if you keep them up to date and run regular scans.
Step 5: Ensure that passwords and sensitive information is protected by avoiding dodgy websites, dodgy software installations etc. If in doubt – don’t click on anything you’re not sure of.