Imagine all your personal information, family photos, financial and other important documents on your computer being held hostage. Those are the only copies because you didn’t back up your files. What would you do to get them back? Would you pay someone, not a computer technician, the person holding your computer hostage?
Ransomware. Malware that’s impossible to remove from your computer. It’s affecting individuals and businesses around the world, with one of the most recent U.S. victims being a Maryland hospital group. Ransomware is one of the most frustrating forms of malware as it prevents or limits access to the victim’s computer. The perpetrator then requires the victim to pay a fee or ransom for the malware to be removed. Frequently, the ransom must be paid with Bitcoin, a digital payment system, making it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the perpetrator. Some individuals and companies, feeling they have no other options, pay. But payment doesn’t always guarantee your computer will be unlocked. So what do you do? The best thing is to take precautions so your computer doesn’t become infected, and back up your files. Unfortunately, even with safeguards in place, malware still finds its way into computers. Software security companies have been working to develop tools to help free computers that are being held hostage. There has been some success in helping victims of ransomware access their files free of charge; however, these tools aren’t effective with every strain of malware. Last year, Tech World published the 7 best ransomware removal tools – how to clean up Cryptolocker, Cryptowall and extortion malware.
To help protect your computer from ransomware, take the standard precautions:
- BACK UP your files on a regular basis.
- Install quality security software. PCMag.com just published The Best Antivirus Utilities for 2016. Take the time to compare software and choose one that’s best for you and your family.
- Don’t open suspicious email attachments or attachments containing a zip file.
- Don’t click on suspicious links; this includes those received via social media and instant messages.
- Install a browser add-on to block popups.
- Disable file sharing.
These are a few of the basic precautions for protecting your computer against malware. For additional tips, visit tripwire.com.
DISCLAIMER: Mentions of businesses, services or products in this article are not endorsements of such by the author, Farmington Police Department or the city of Farmington. Individuals are encouraged to research and choose products and services that are suitable to them.
Georgette Allen is the community relations liaison and public information officer for the Farmington Police Department. She has been with FPD for eight years, six of which she served as a victim advocate before transitioning to her current position. Georgette holds a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and the National Information Officers Association.