Ransom. When most people hear the term, they think chilling thoughts of loved ones being held captive in exchange for a large sum of money. But did you know your computer files can also be a victim of ransom? Ransomware is a malicious form of malware in which hackers can take control of your device, hold your files captive and demand you pay money through certain online payment methods in order to grant access to your system and files again. Ransomware will often restrict access to files by preventing users from opening or using their documents, pictures, spreadsheets and other files. Ransomware may also possibly encrypt files or lock your device.
Ransomware is one of the fastest growing forms of hacking. Anyone from an individual home computer user to a Fortune 500 company to police departments can be infected. The malware does not just infect desktops and laptops but can also infect smartphones. Often times the smaller the user, the more vulnerable they are to losing their files because they do not have secure methods of system backup.
How do you know if you have become a victim of ransomware? The attack on your device may be quite obvious such as a message that appears on your computer screen, saying the files are encrypted and the only way to access them is by paying a demanded ransom. That message may also be a scare tactic in that it appears to be a message from a local law authority or government agency stating you need to pay a fine or face legal action or from a legitimate software company telling your license has expired and you need to purchase a new license in order to unlock your system. These claims are false and are just a means designed to make users pay the money without telling anyone who might be able to restore your device. This particular form of malware is often referred to as ‘scareware’ as it forces users to pay a ‘ransom’ by intimidating or scaring them. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that paying the fine or ransom or doing what the ransomware tells you to do will restore access to your device and files again. In fact, if you pay the ransom, you could become a target for more malware.
There are different types of ransomware and it can infect your computer in ways other than a message popping up on your screen demanding money. Ransomware may also infect your device in a less apparent manner such as clicking a dangerous link, downloading software from an unknown source or visiting a malicious website or one that has been hacked. Like many common methods of hacking, ransomware can arrive via emails with links or attachments that, when the user clicks on them, the malware is unleased into your files.
Although there is no guarantee you can keep yourself from becoming a victim of ransomware, there are precautionary steps you can take to protect yourself against it:
• Install and use an up-to-date antivirus software program. (Users with no anti-virus protection or out of date browsers are more at risk)
• Make sure software is up-to-date
• Have a pop-up blocker enabled in your web browser
• Avoid opening emails or attachments from people or companies you don’t know
• Avoid clicking on links from unknown sources or sites
• Regularly backup your important files
If you find yourself an unfortunate victim of ransomware, the most important first step to take is to NOT pay the ransom or demanded money for your files. The next step is to remove the ransomware from your system. Some forms of ransomware may be removed without the loss of data or your files. However, the process of removing the malware varies and depends on the type of virus infecting your PC. A simple virus scan may work but oftentimes offline scans, methods of advanced file recovery or system restoration is required. Once the ransomware is removed, it’s time to assess and repair the damage. If you’re lucky, the cybercriminals have only hid your icons, shortcuts and files and did not encrypt your files. However, if you find yourself with malware encrypted files and data, your luck may have run out. The decryption key is often stored on the cybercriminal’s server and you will not be able to unlock or retrieve your hostage files.
As frightening as being a victim of ransomware can be, taking back control of your device is possible. If you have been vigilant in backing up your files, restoration of your files with minimal loss is possible as well. With over 15 years of IT experience and extensive knowledge in repairing numerous brands of laptops and desktops, KVS Computers is a reliable, trustworthy provider of computer repair services offering malware removal. Contact KVS Computers at 570-935-0545 or email@example.com.