You may have heard of ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts your files until you pay for a code that will unlock them.
Ransomware is intelligent malware that can actually change, learn, and grow to avoid anti-virus programs and filters set to catch them. Due to this intelligence the people who write ransomware have simply refined its awareness, which makes it very difficult to track, trap, and eliminate. Ransomware is spread primarily through links or embedded links that come in through your email system. It can also be spread through outdated web browsers or plugins.
If you think you have a ransomware virus, one of the first things you should do is unplug or disconnect from your wired or wireless network. This will stop the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, in many cases there is no way to unencrypt files that have already been encrypted. One of the only ways to recover your files is from your backup. So make sure you have backup processes in place. Also always recover your files to another location and not over the infected files.
Of course the best course of action is to lessen your chance of getting infected. Here are some basic rules:
- Only open emails from people you know and trust. Keep in mind, however, that spammers will sometimes spoof email addresses so it looks like someone you know is sending you a message.
- Double check the email’s content. An example would be someone stating they are responding to your message. Make sure that you actually sent them something earlier.
- Do not click on links in your email unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. As an added precaution, configure your browser to use link reputation to check the link.
- Always ensure that your software applications, operating systems, and Internet browsers are up to date so the ransomware can’t exploit vulnerabilities in your system.
- Back up your important data. Cloud-based backups such as XpressStor can help protect your files.
- Review and update your company IT practices regarding email attachments and links. Make sure your company firewall filters any executable files, zip files, or questionable links.
Cyber criminals have taken ransomware to a new level. Most infections can be prevented through education of users, but anti-virus and security-conscious technology can certainly help. Companies should continue to harden their systems and manage email and web surfing polices to ensure that they are catching as much malware in the safety net as possible. Being aware and vigilant is the best way to protect yourself.