In a nutshell, Ransomware is malware that infects your computer and encrypts all your files and demands you pay a ransom to have them unencrypted.
Am I at risk?
Unfortunately, YES. Ransomware is growing at such an exponential rate that it is going to affect everyone sooner or later.
Why is it growing?
Well, Money, virtually untraceable cryptocurrency which continues to make this type of malware nearly unstoppable. It’s just like the old saying, “Why do crooks keep robbing banks?” “Because that’s where the money is.”
What can I do to protect myself?
Your best protection is the software between your ears.
- Make sure that your operating system and applications are fully up to date and if an application offers it, turn on automatic updating. Your operating system will perform automatic critical updates anyway with no interaction required from you.
- Use a modern, up to date, can you see the theme here, anti-virus and anti-malware system that monitors activity in the background.
- Have backups that run on a schedule.
- If you are setting up a new system or have recently performed a clean install to freshen up your computer you should also create a drive image once you have your system at a point where everything you need is installed, updated, and operating correctly. Then perform your backups on a schedule.
- Practice safe computing, i.e. don’t go to questionable websites, don’t click links in emails or social media posts or just about anywhere, and don’t open attachments on emails or instant messages.
- A practice I follow because I need to check links in suspicious emails and messages for your benefit is to re-type the link address in a web browser myself and not click the link because sometimes what the link displays is not where the link goes. For example a link in an email might be written as http://www.bigbonus.com/win5Mdollars but hidden in that link it might actually go to http://www.onlinecrimefamily.co/yourpcisnowmine sometimes the links are just a word or two or a button. If this is the case most email programs will display the actual destination address in the bottom status bar when you hover over it with the pointer. If you are on a phone or tablet a long press will pop up a menu which will allow you to copy the link and you can paste it into a note or somewhere else safe that won’t immediately try to open the address.
Sadly even with doing all this you are still at risk. The bad guys are very sneaky, they want your money and will do anything to get it, that’s why anti-virus and anti-malware applications have such a hard time detecting everything. New strains of ransomware are being discovered at a very alarming rate.
The good news
Ok, now some good news. A new tool to add to your arsenal has just recently been released, its called RansomFree from Cybereason. https://ransomfree.cybereason.com/
The secret to RansomFree’s success is not in signature files like antivirus applications, but rather in how it detects ransomware-like behavior (i.e., the local encryption of user data). This makes the application good at doing its job, since all ransomware, so far, has displayed the same characteristics regardless of its payload. Whether the attack is a Trojan, vulnerability exploit, or malicious code, RansomFree is designed to deal with the interaction of the file(s) with the system and bring it to an immediate halt once the behaviour is classified as a threat and until the user intervenes.
Oh, did I mention that it’s free?
Not for a trial period or needing a subscription, but as in free for personal and commercial use on both client and server versions of Windows operating systems. Windows only at the moment.
There’s really no excuse not give it a shot and let it work to stop a possible ransomware infection from occurring. If you’re not targeted, you’d never know it was there—but it’s a great peace of mind to have it on your side in the event of a breach? I think so.