Imagine: You're a small business owner who is pulling up an important payroll document that you need before you can pay your staff. Instead of seeing the payroll file you need, you get a pop-up that takes over your screen and says, “Your computer has been compromised. To open the file, please pay the $550 fee to decrypt the data.”
This message is a form of malware, which is called ransomware.
What You Should Know About Ransomware
Where do you get this malware? Many hackers will use email to send the ransomware to their victims, and they do this in sneaky ways.
Have you recently gotten an email with a link? Did you click this link? Most people get links and most people click them. Even if the link looks legitimate, such as an update email from your bank, it can be extremely dangerous to your computer and network if you click. You will also find that these criminals post as government agencies, law enforcement members or even tech companies, that will imply that the software you currently have on your computer doesn’t work or requires activation.
Do not pay anything when you see the ransomware message. Wipe your drive completely, and then restore that data. This only works, of course, if your drive was backed up. Hopefully, you took care of that already.
The Prevention of Ransomware
Though ransomware can be an expensive, and difficult software to deal with, it is easy to prevent if you take the right steps:
- Do not open any attachment or click any email links, even if it appears to be from a sender you know
- Always use an antivirus software and firewall
- Use a browser extension that will detect malicious websites
- Back up data each and every day. Look for back up companies that offer software that will save several versions of each file. This allows companies to recover files that were saved before the ransomware set in.
It is common for ransomware to attack a business, and these attacks are typically sophisticated and originate from a foreign land. If your business has become a victim, take the following steps:
- Collect all correspondence that you have received from the criminal
- Contact your web host, and the police, though the cops might not do anything
- If you lose a lot, contact the FBI to report it
How to Protect Your Company from Viruses
There are several ways you can protect your company from viruses.
- Do not open a link, attachment or program that comes through email unless you are specifically expecting to see it. This includes from people you might know, as a hacker can easily make it seem as if the message is from a friend, family member or colleague.
- Do not use a Wi-Fi connection that is public, unless you are using VPN (virtual private network) encryption.
- Always use a firewall and ensure all virus protection software is updated.
- Always use the most recent release of your favorite browser, and make sure you update to the latest version of Windows or iOS when it is available.
- Use the administrative rights option on your computer to prevent any installation that is unauthorized.
- Train your staff on security, and make sure that if they use their own devices to access work related material, that they are also protected.
- Always back up data that is on your network. If you do get hacked, you can still access your date via the backup. It is best to use both on-site and cloud backup options.
Though the above info is presented with businesses in mind, these tips can apply to personal computer use, too. Anyone who uses a computer should know how malware and viruses work, and should know how cybercriminals work. This is how you protect yourself from the bad guys.
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