Cyber criminals continue to invent new methods to victimize computer users, and the use of ransomware is one of the more inventive techniques identified to do so. Ransomware originated in eastern Europe, but has since spread to virtually all parts of the world. While there has been some progress in finding and prosecuting those responsible, it’s difficult to track and isolate offenders when they are located in uncooperative countries. That suggests the best defense against ransomware is a strong offense.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is software inadvertently downloaded onto a computer from a remote site. The ransomware variants may act differently, but the net result is a freezing of access to data on an infected computer. The computer owner is then instructed to deliver a ransom in exchange for a key to unlock the data being held. Once the required funds are delivered, the key may or may not be delivered.
How can users protect themselves from ransomware threats?
Because the ransomware in the wild is not all the same, it can be difficult to be fully protected from an infection. However, there are basic steps computer users can take to minimize the likelihood of infection. First, install virus software and update it frequently. Ideally, the virus software should run automatically to provide maximum protection. Many of the ransomware variants can be detected by virus protection software. Next, make sure all data is frequently backed up to a cloud-based service or a remote hard drive that is not kept connected to the computer being backed up.
What can owners do if ransomware still finds its way onto a computer?
No matter how careful a computer owner is, ransomware is insidious and may infect a computer from seemingly innocuous sources. Security experts do not recommend paying a ransom, as doing so can lead to additional security issues. However, some individuals find themselves paying because the data being held may be difficult or impossible to replace, and it can be exceedingly difficult to get rid of ransomware. Before paying anything, contact local law enforcement personnel and a data restoration expert for advice.
The simple truth is that ransomware removal is difficult, and most individuals simply do not have the skills needed to recover infected data and restore the computer. That is what the cyber criminals are counting on. They make it tempting to simply pay the ransom and get on with life.