Ransomware is a virus that encrypts your files and/or locks up your computer, then demands a ransom to decrypt your data. It has a few different variants (apparently all viruses need to have variants?) with some pretty interesting names like Bad Rabbit, Jigsaw, and WannaCry, but they all have a similar method of operation.
Here are some tips to help you avoid getting your computer infected by this potent virus.
- Back up your files, preferably to an off-site location. That way, even if your entire network gets hit by ransomware you will be able to restore your data. We’ve tried a few different solutions for off-site backups and eventually landed on BackBlaze. We’ve become a reseller and would definitely recommend their products.
- Install a good antivirus like Eset, Kaspersky, or Bitdefender. Don’t use free antiviruses; you would be better off using Windows’ built-in antivirus, Windows Defender. Free antiviruses are usually nothing more than memory-consuming adware.
- Be careful where you download software and media files from. Make sure the site is secure (uses “https” instead of “http”), and if the site is cluttered with ads, find another download source. Another good rule is to make sure that the site is owned by the software publisher. For instance, when downloading Firefox, the publisher is Mozilla, so make sure you are on their site (mozilla.org) and not something like firefox-download.ly. That download is not going to end well.
- Think twice before clicking. There are cases where attackers have breached an email account and sent out emails to the account’s entire contact list, so even if you know the sender, don’t click on suspicious links.
- If you get ransomware, do not pay the ransom. They usually demand exorbitant amounts of money so in most cases it’s not worth it anyway, but even if you think it would be worth it, don’t. You will become a known revenue source for the attackers, and repeat attacks will be much more likely.