“Ransomware” is an increasingly popular infection that we think takes the crown for most evil group of viruses in existence. Luckily there are steps you can take to be safe.

This infection works by disabling your computer or preventing access to your data, usually achieved by searching for known file types and encrypting them, it then demands a sum of money (usually £300 in bitcoins) to release the “private key” that will allow you to get your data back. Probably the most upsetting part of ransomware infections is that paying the so-called “fine” is usually the only way to get back your precious photos, documents and other files.

The newest forms of this infection use 2048-bit encryption too, that’s probably around 8 times more secure that what your browser uses to access online banking, so no it can’t be cracked either! Some variants are even capable of encrypting any external hard drives, memory sticks and even shared network drives. This can be truly crippling if your business relies on one of these to store and share your data around the office. Annoyingly, these infections are also capable of evading typical signature based anti-virus programs. So if you’re using a “free” edition of any software it’s highly unlikely to protect you, even some “paid for” anti-viruses haven’t been any help in protecting our customers in the past. 

how do you become infected?

91% of ransomware is distributed via phishing emails. Ever seen those unsolicited ones with attached “.doc” files claiming to be invoices or something more tempting? Chances are that if you opened one it would have immediately starting encrypting your data and prompted you with a notice requesting you to pay a fine. This is almost a good thing though as it means that the chances of infection can be reduced by over 90% simply by learning the basics of phishing emails. And for businesses, teaching your staff how to be a little bit more savvy could save you hundreds of pounds, if not thousands in damages if you can’t retrieve your data.

So How can I protect myself/my business?

Backup! Backup! Yes two! For a total of three copies of your data. Ransomware has no hold over you and nothing to “ransom” if you already have your data somewhere safe. Our sister company Simply Backup offers unlimited online backup for any and all files. For businesses, you should talk to us about Backup Solutions that include a local backup and an online copy. You can also lessen the chances of infections by ensuring that your machines are regularly updated and receive all relevant patches as well as having adequate virus protection on each and every one. We can also help you look after your PCs with a Business Support plan.

Oh no! I’m infected. What can I do?

You have two choices. If you have an external backup of your data then you shouldn’t be worried, just bring us the device and we’ll remove all traces of the infection with a Virus Clean, you can then restore all your data from the backup. If you have no backups then the first thing to ascertain is whether the infection really has encrypted your files (some variations only pretend), we can help with that too, just bring it to our shop and we’ll get to the bottom of it with our Free Diagnostics. If the worst case scenario has occurred and the virus has encrypted everything and you have no backups then I am afraid to say that you may have lost it all. You only chance now is to try paying the fine and hope that they will provide you with the private key to un-encrypt it all. We can still help remove the infection, but not with retrieving your files.

The best course of action when it comes to ransomware is a preventative one. Ensuring you have adequate copies of any important data means that if the situation should ever arise you will always have an easy way out with all your files. Talk to us today about backups and Backup Solutions for businesses.

Alfie

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