RANSOMWARE – What is it? How to Avoid it!!!


Perhaps you heard of the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center that recently had to pay $17,000 to hackers who had seized control of the hospital’s computer systems and held them for ransom? They aren’t the only ones being held ransom, just the latest. There were over 4 million ransomware attacks my mid-year 2015 and it’s growing.

Now there’s a hospital in Kentucky that has recently been hit with ransomware. You can read about it here.

It’s not just hospitals and large companies who get hit. Individuals do as well.

What is ransomware? Ransomware is malicious software that allows a hacker to access a computer or network of computers, encrypt the files on that computer and then request money to decrypt it. Doing so basically lets the hackers hold your files or computer hostage. Even if you pay, there’s usually no guarantee that your files will be released.How does your computer get hacked? Generally, it happens when you open an infected attachment in an email, or you visit an infected website (which WOT should protect you from). Once the software gets on your computer, it may take a day or so to go to work but when it does, you’ll find that your sensitive files, your pictures, and videos, your files in your Documents folder, are all locked and there’s nothing you can do to open them; unless you pay the ransom.

How to avoid it? The single biggest thing that will defeat it is having a regularly scheduled backup. If you are attacked with ransomware you can clean up your computer and restore your files from backup. Keep in mind that some ransomware will also encrypt files on an attached external drive so if you’re backing up to an external drive, disconnect it when you’re done with the backup. You can also back up your files to the internet. I use iDrive for my cloud backup. With iDrive, you can back up not only your computer files, but you can back up your cell phone files, such as pictures, contacts, text messages, Facebook pictures and videos and more. You can back up multiple computers and devices to the same account. You can also backup to a USB hard disk attached to your computer for a local backup.  You can check it out at https://goo.gl/yjQ8SM.

Next, make sure that your antivirus software is current and active.

Make sure that your programs are updated, especially Windows and Adobe software.

Do NOT open email attachments unless you are 100% sure they are safe, even if it says it’s from UPS, FedEx, or your best friend. If a strange window pops up in your browser, use Ctrl-Alt-Del and go to TaskManager to close your browser. Don’t click on the pop up as they will often be programmed to install malicious software and never call the phone number in the pop-up to have them “fix” the malware attack (they only want access to your computer to do more bad things).

If you have any questions, please email me and I’d be happy to help you.

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