The risk posed by ransomware is growing rapidly, and nobody is immune – neither public institutions, companies, nor private users. Such malware infects Windows computers, encrypts important files, and then demands that the victim pay a ransom. This post shows how you can take it easy in countering such attacks.
Whether via a social network, contaminated website, or an infected email, clicking in the wrong place is all it takes for your computer to be infected and all your data blocked. One thing’s for sure: The risk posed by ransomware is growing rapidly. Examples of widespread ransomware attacks such as CoinVault, Locky and most recently WannaCry show that cybercriminals are launching these sorts of attacks with increasing frequency. Anyone can get hit.
Malware hijacks files or entire computers
They all work in the same way: The malware first goes to work secretly in the background until it triggers the locking mechanism. The blackmailers then notify you via an onscreen message. Their threat: Only once you wire them money will you be able to start your computer or access encrypted files again. Security experts warn against giving in to the blackmailers’ demands as first, it encourages cyber criminals to continue their dirty business and second there is no guarantee that they will actually unlock your computer or files. So, what should you do?
Not every antivirus program offers adequate protection against such attacks. That’s because malware changes so quickly that many developers can’t keep pace with updates. On top of that, often they cannot crack the malware encryption. And even if the malware is removed successfully, the data can still be corrupted. So, how do you shield yourself?
Top tips against ransomware
- The key thing first: Make regular system backups of all your files. In an emergency, such as after a virus infection, you can restore Windows entirely in just a few clicks. It’s worth keeping in mind that if you’ve got an up-to-date backup of all your data up your sleeve, you can’t be blackmailed.
- When accessing emails, look out for suspicious file attachments – don’t just go opening them. This is all the more important if you see Office files attached from an unknown sender. It’s best to delete these sorts of messages right away.
- Some types of malware use security vulnerabilities to infiltrate Windows, so always keep your programs and apps updated to prevent this. Install any updates as soon as they’re available to fix vulnerabilities, especially for Flash and Adobe Reader.
Keep a cool head with ransomware
So you’ve been infected by a ransomware virus despite having taken every security precaution going? In these instances, the first rule is: Keep calm!
- Take immediate action: Grab a screenshot of the message and report it to the police.
- Following that, switch off your computer immediately. Don’t attempt to restart your infected Windows computer until you have removed the malware, such as with the help of a rescue CD.
- Don’t pay: Even if you need your data urgently and don’t have a backup, you shouldn’t pay any ransom. If you do, you only encourage cyber criminals to continue their dirty business. Only when you see no hope of rescue, and you absolutely need the data, should you give in to the demands. But even then it’s questionable as to whether you’ll get your data back.
- Restore Windows: Got a fresh backup of your entire system ready to hand? Then go ahead and restore it. Taking individual files from the backup is, however, not a good idea as it is likely that further malware may be hiding deep within the system and the criminals will kick off another attempt to blackmail you again in a few weeks.
- Online help: The central point of contact in the event of a ransomware infection is the website: https://www.botfree.eu/en/index.html. Using a screenshot, you can easily identify the trojan that has paralyzed your Windows computer. The Help forum also provides a lot of valuable assistance. In the best case, you’ll find special tools that will help you crack the encryption.