We all need to be aware of the dangers of ransomware at work and at home.
Ransomware is malicious software — malware — that is spreading in popularity because it is profitable for criminals. Once ransomware infects a computer or, worse yet, a network, it encrypts targeted files, sometimes entire drives.
You are then locked out of those files and are told you can only have the files decrypted by paying the cybercriminal a ransom. Often, ransoms must be paid in some form of digital currency, such as Bitcoin.
Watch out for suspicious emails
Ransomware spreads like other malware, most often through an email to a victim, where the cybercriminal tricks the recipient into opening an affected attachment or clicking on a link that takes the victim to the attacker’s website.
Don’t pay the ransom
The more often people pay these criminals, the more motivated they are to infect others. Even if you did pay the ransom, there is no guarantee you will get your files back. You are dealing with criminals — they may not decrypt the files, or even if they do provide you with a decryption method in exchange for payment, something may go wrong during the decryption process or your computer may be infected with additional malware.
Backing up your files is the best defense
The best way to recover from a ransomware infection and not pay a ransom is to recover your files from backups. At work, your IT department manages backup services, but you also need to back up your important files at home.
Keep in mind that if your backups can be accessed from an infected system, ransomware might also encrypt or delete your backup files. A best practice is to backup home files to reputable cloud-based services or store your backups on external drives that are not always connected to your system. Be sure to test your backups and confirm that you can recover files from them.
Other ways to protect yourself
Follow basic security practices, keep your anti-virus and anti-malware tools up-to-date, and be suspicious of emails and other online offers that seem too good to be true or ask for personal information.