It’s every company’s worst nightmare. You’re working through your email for the day, you click into a message, and suddenly everything on your computer starts going haywire.
A few minutes and several thousand frantic clicks later, a screen pops up: “Oops, your files have been encrypted!”
What the heck does that even mean?
Ransomware is one of the most rampant and exploitative viruses out there, yup and you thought we only had to think about our own physical health.
Nowadays, we are all cyborgs, with pocket computers extending from our fingertips. Ransomware costs businesses billions of dollars a year, but you don’t have to fall victim to it. Read on to learn more about how to prevent ransomware and what to do if it does attack.
What Is Ransomware?
As you might guess from the name, ransomware is a computer virus that holds your files ransom until you pay the group that designed the virus. They encrypt your files and refuse to decrypt them until they receive, however much money you’ve demanded.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most effective phishing schemes out there.
Data encryption has become incredibly secure in recent years. In fact, the fastest supercomputers in the world would still take longer than the age of the universe to crack some ciphers. So if a scammer does manage to encrypt your files, the likelihood that you’re going to get them back on your own is slim.
How Often Does It Happen?
If you find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack, you are far from alone. Each year, ransomware costs businesses more than $75 billion. And terrifyingly, 75 percent of those businesses attacked were running the latest endpoint protection software.
Every fourteen seconds, a new business falls prey to ransomware. In the time you’ve been reading this article, three businesses have become victims of this scheme that costs an average of $133,000. By 2021, that number is expected to grow to a new victim every eleven seconds.
How Does It Happen?
In general, ransomware spreads through infected sites or phishing emails. Maybe you get an email saying you’ve won a prize or something that tells you that your computer/credit card/bank account/social security number has been compromised. You open the email, and the virus downloads itself onto your computer.
Once the virus is in place, it starts encrypting every file it can get access to. Think things like – contact spreadsheets, data analytics, financial records, invoices, tax returns, reports, blog posts, the novel you’ve been working on for six years, your kids’ photos, and anything else.
Once all the files it can get to have been encrypted, the virus demands payment and threatens to destroy your files if you don’t pay up. If you pay the money, the phishers may decrypt your data, but the amounts they demand can be excessive.
Do You Have to Pay?
Once all your files have been encrypted, it may seem like your only option is to give the phishers what they want. But most of the time, paying up is the wrong move. It encourages the people who make these viruses to keep doing it, and most of the time, the decryption doesn’t work anyway.
There are some options for restoring your files without paying up, but most of them involve prior preparation. There are also some steps you can take to minimize the damage when an attack occurs.
But don’t leap for your wallet as soon as an attack shows up; it won’t do you any good.
What to Do
If you become the victim of a ransomware attack, the first step is to disconnect the affected computer from any network you can find. Shut off the wifi, unplug any network cables, unpair it from the printer or your phone, and isolate the machine as much as possible.
This will help prevent the virus from spreading to other computers.
Next, try to identify the specific virus attacking you and alert the authorities to help you plan your next steps. They may be able to help you coordinate a counter-attack to catch the phishers and get your files back.
From there, you need to start assessing your options and determine whether you can wipe your systems or try to remove the malware without deleting your files.
How to Prepare for a Ransomware Attack
Making a plan for how to respond to a ransomware attack is much easier if you’ve prepared for battle.
The most important thing you can do to prepare for one of these attacks is to back up copies of your files, preferably in two or three places. Have a cloud backup on a separate server, and have physical backups as well.
Having these backups will give you the freedom to wipe your system and start over without worrying about losing files if you get attacked. Segment computers as much as possible, so if your system does get attacked, it won’t get very far.
How to Prevent Ransomware
The best way to prevent ransomware is to be careful about what you click on online and in emails. Check web pages and email addresses before you open unfamiliar sites or emails. Hold training seminars for your employees, so they know what phishing hallmarks to look for.
It’s also a good idea to keep an antivirus software running on your computer to stop viruses before they can ever get a start on your computer.
You should also make sure everyone has the lowest required admin access to do their job; this lowers the number of computers that have access to demolish your entire system. And keep your security software up to date.
Learn More About Protecting Your Computer
Knowing how to prevent ransomware from attacking your computer can save your company a lot of money.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is no exception. Be sure to back up your files often and on separate systems, and keep everything as segmented as you can in your company.
If you’d like help protecting your company from ransomware, check out the rest of our site at WPFarm. We provide WordPress hosting, optimization, and repair to keep your business running as securely as possible. Learn more about our hacking repair services to stop viruses in their tracks.