Viruses are bad enough; scammers are terrible, and we are certainly not discounting the trouble and upset it can cause when a user is attacked by a virus or is scammed. In the last few years there have been awful viruses that have ramped up to attack home users and businesses alike in the form of ransomware, a program that is designed to encrypt any files on your computer or storage devices and require a fee to be paid in order to get your data back. Family pictures, school papers, genealogy research, and tax records all lost due to an encryption virus can not only be a headache but also a heartache to home users. Lost data spreadsheets, customer files, accounting records, and project data can mean thousands of dollars in recovery and restoration for the business user. Either way, an encryption virus is no joke and not something anyone wants to have the misfortune of getting.
What’s worse, if you have any devices connected to the computer, that device will become encrypted as well! For businesses using servers, once the encryption is on the server, it can encrypt all shared files used on computers connected with that server. In addition, the encryption will also delete or encrypt back-ups and restore points on the server. But don’t lose hope! There are steps you can take to help prevent ransomware attacks and steps you can take to recover data that is lost should your device or your company’s devices be infected with an encryption virus.
What to do if you get a Ransomware Virus
First off, when you get an encryption software, once your computer is locked down, the program will state you will need to pay a fee in order to get your files back. WannaCry, for example, will start with a ransom of $300 to $600 in Bitcoin and every six hours the ransom is not paid, the amount increases. Other ransomware infections work similar to that of WannaCry and the experts are saying, no matter what, don’t pay the ransom, especially not WannaCry. Paying the ransom requested to unlock your files only encourages the scammers to continue. Plus, there’s no guarantee you are going to get your files back in any version of the ransomware viruses. In the case of WannaCry, there is no way to tie a payment to the person making it, so the individual paying the ransom won’t necessarily get a key to decrypt their computer files.
It is important to remember, don’t pay the ransom. However, it is also important to note, if you get an encryption virus, shut your computer down immediately. Whether pressing the power button until it shuts down or pulling the plug, you want to shut your computer off before the virus has time to spread. If your computer is a part of a network, you want to ensure that this computer is disconnected from the network (disabling the wireless) to prevent the ransomware from spreading. If a ransomware attack is suspected, turn off your computer and notify an IT professional right away.
Protecting your Computer and your Data
No one wants to get a virus on their computer. There are steps you as a user can take to help protect your device and your data.
- Run patch and security updates. You know those annoying updates that your computer wants you to run? Do them! Running security updates will allow your computer’s antivirus to update and keep up to date with newer malicious software threats. This is an important and easy step anyone can take to protect their computer. Ransomware programs, like WannaCry, take advantage of patch vulnerabilities to infect computers.
- Retire your old devices. Computers with outdated operating systems like Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 are no longer supported and have become prime targets for malicious software. If you are using a device with these operating systems, it’s time to say goodbye to them and invest in a computer with a recent operating system.
- Restart your computer at least once a week. Completing a restart once a week can help your computer run efficiently. The restart process will clear the cache, allow any updates that need a restart to be completed, and allows for a clean boot. Doing the restart will help with your computer’s operation efficiency.
- Have an updated antivirus software! This one may seem obvious, but some users still don’t understand the importance of having an antivirus program running (and updated) on a computer. Having an antivirus software can be a line of defense against malicious attack. Ransomware programs, like DMA-Locker, take advantage of weak spots in security systems to infiltrate. Disabled Firewalls and Security Settings may become a cause for getting some ransomware virus programs.
- Save, save often, save in many places. Sometimes getting a virus infection happens and if you get a ransomware virus, recovering your data becomes difficult if not impossible. Data like pictures and documents that are important to you should always be backed up. Whether you use cloud backup, save to a flash drive, or an external drive, be consistent on your backups to prevent data loss. But be sure to disconnect any external drives after backing up, if you get ransomware virus while your external device is connected, it too will be encrypted!
As always, you as the user are a major line of defense against infection. Following the steps above are important but it is also necessary for you to be aware of what you do as a user that can put your computer at risk. Take care on what types of links you click, avoiding banner ads and suggested posts on websites are a great start. Skip opening email attachments from untrustworthy sources or from unknown emails. And that pop-up that locks your computer telling you your computer is infected and to call a number. Don’t Do It!!! That is a scam that can seriously damage your computer.
In the end, if you do become the misfortunate user to get a ransomware virus on the computer, immediately stop, turn off your computer and call your local IT company to have a professional work on your computer and remove the malware. Follow the steps above, use caution when on the computer, and save your important files in multiple places. These steps can help save a lot of headache….and heartache.