Updated: Sep 9, 2020
I'm sure at some point you've either heard in the news, or from a friend, about ransomware. Most recently, Garmin, a maker of workout recording technology and aviation navigation technology admitted their systems had been targeted and successfully hacked by a ransomware attack. For days, Garmin and the users of their products were held captive by this hostile takeover of their data and systems. A lot of money was lost by Garmin in the days they struggled to recover parts of their business, and their customers were left with an unusable product. This is the not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last.
If you are unsure what Ransomware is exactly, here is a brief definition: Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts a victim's files. The attacker then demands a ransom from the victim to restore access to the data upon payment. Users are shown instructions for how to pay a fee to get the decryption key. The costs can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, payable to cybercriminals in Bitcoin.
When you are successfully infected by Ransomware, you typically will see a screen like this on your computer:
So, what can you do to prevent something like this happening? And, if it does happen, what can you do? We are here to tell you how to do both.
Let's start with prevention first. Here at Byte Squad, we believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (Check out our Preventative Maintenance and Managed IT Services). If you are following best practices with web browsing, opening your email, running updates on your computer regularly, running a regular backup of your data (at least weekly), and most importantly running an updated and fully scanning Antivirus / Antimalware software on your computer you are doing good to prevent most of the worst parts of the Internet from entering your computer and taking over your valuable data.
Here's a quick list of some best practices for web browsing and opening email:
Be mindful when you are considering clicking on links embedded in an email from someone you do not know, especially if they are asking for personally identifiable information such as a bank account number, Social Security Number, etc.
Be sure the website you are browsing to is secure. This is noted by a site address beginning with https as well as a padlock icon in your browser status bar (the location of this icon will vary based on browser).
Use your junk filter in your email software. Sometimes legitimate email finds it's way to the junk folder, but more often than not, your junk folder is ripe with phishing and malware scams just waiting for you to click on.
Be extra cautious about downloading that "free" software tool to make your computer go "faster" or "white paper" with the next great stock you should be buying. Nothing is ever free, even more so on the Internet. If you have doubts, a quick Google search can usually help you find others who know whether something is safe. Having an IT expert a quick phone call away can also help as well! When in doubt, start asking questions.
NEVER provide personal information to something on the Internet offering something for free.
Use complex passwords, and vary your password across your accounts. If needed, use an industry respected and trusted password manager such as Lastpass.
Just to be clear, these are some of the top "best practices" to follow when browsing the Internet and your email. There are certainly many more, but if you're mindful of the 7 items listed above, you're doing great.
Now, what can you do if you fall victim to a ransomware attack? Most importantly, do not panic. Unfortunately, there is no one answer to a ransomware attack. If you have never run a backup of your data, and have no way to recover it otherwise, you would either have to pay the ransom to unlock your data, or attempt to recover it using a data recovery service which can also cost a good deal of money.
If you have a recent back up of your data, you would only lose the changes to your data between the ransomware infection and your last back up. You would need to re-image or restore the computer to an earlier version and recover your data from backup. This could take hours to days depending upon the amount of data you have, and if you have access to all of the software installers for your programs you use at home or for business.
Most importantly, this is a time where having a knowledgable, trusted IT resource like Byte Squad on your side is going to get the most results the quickest to get you back on your feet. We've seen home office customers and corporate-level folks fall victim to these unfortunate attacks more times than we hoped to see. Each time, we've been able to restore the customer whole, or as close to whole as possible, while putting systems in place and providing education to prevent it from ever happening again!
If you would like to know more about where you stand with your protection against ransomware, viruses, malware, and need someone to verify your virus scanner is active and doing what it should be to protect you, the Byte Squad can help you. We provide Monthly Maintenance services starting at $9.99 a month for an IT expert to become your IT Department and begin monitoring required security and software updates, and your existing virus scanning software to ensure you are protected completely. We have a number of low-cost plans to protect you, and your valued assets and data. If you would like to know more, please call us at 612-400-5994. We want to help you prevent unnecessary downtime, lost income, and upset customers you cannot service. We want to be your trusted advisor for all things tech.