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Ever wonder what everyone’s deal with ransomware is? You’ve heard about it on the news, online, and you might have even come across a few phish-y emails. Although you may have heard about it, we’re here to deliver the facts—how to protect yourself, how to remove it, and how to prevent it from happening again. 

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a malware that infects a victim’s computer system through file encryption. After an attack, the attacker demands a ransom from the victim, typically through a cryptocurrency called Bitcoin. The costs of ransom can vary from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

How Does Ransomware Work?

There are a few ways ransomware can infect your system, but the most common way is through phishing emails. Often, attackers phish spam attachments and wait for the victim to open their email. Once an infected email is opened, malware automatically downloads onto the computer system, leaving the system in the hands of the attacker. 

One of the most common things malware does is encrypt all of the user’s files, rendering them completely useless to the owner. Files cannot be decrypted without a special key known only by the attacker. The only way for the victim to retrieve their files is to send them payment through Bitcoin.

Sometimes, an attacker might masquerade themselves as a government authority, claiming that the victim owes a fine for illegal internet downloads—though this is not a typical approach. However, leakware and doxware are more common and involve blackmail, as the attacker threatens to leak the user’s personal files to the public unless a ransom is paid.

Who Is At Risk for Ransomware?

Regular people used to be more at risk for a ransomware attack than businesses, but now it’s businesses that need to be concerned. Cybercriminals sometimes strike with opportunity, but more often than not, target larger facilities such as government buildings or hospitals. These places are more at risk because of their large data-sharing networks and because they seem to pay ransoms more quickly. Though this may seem more of a relief, it’s important to know that ransomware attacks are indiscriminate. 

How Do I Prevent Ransomware?

It’s relatively easy to keep your system safe from ransomware, and there are many steps you can take to protect your system:

  • Update your operating system to prevent any vulnerable or weak spots in your security.
  • Don’t install any software or allow it administrative privileges until you know exactly where it came from.
  • Install antivirus software that pinpoints malicious activity before it’s too late.
  • Always backup your files frequently. This won’t stop an attack, but it could help you put the pieces back together after one happens.

How Do I Remove Ransomware?

To regain control of your computer, make sure you follow these steps:

  • Reboot your computer to safe mode
  • Install antimalware software
  • Scan your computer system
  • Restore your computer

Unfortunately, even if you exhaust this list, your files will remain encrypted. When you remove the ransomware without paying, it’s harder to restore your files. 

Should I Pay the Ransom?

So your system was completely overtaken, your files were encrypted and you’ve lost vital data. Should you pay the ransom?

Most law enforcement agencies urge ransomware victims to not pay the ransom to their attackers. Doing this only encourages future ransomware attacks to continue. It’s estimated that 66% of companies say they would never pay a ransom, but typically 65% of companies end up paying the ransom when prompted. 

Still, paying the attackers doesn’t always guarantee that your files will be returned to you safe and sound. Sometimes cybercriminals take the money and your files never get returned. Rest assured that, in most cases, around 65-70% of the time data is restored. 

Ransomware is on the rise. As technology changes, so do its advanced schemes. If you’ve been a victim of malware and need help restoring your data, let us handle it for you. Contact us for IT support today.

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