Ransomware is a type of virus. However, because it has become so common and is by far the most dangerous of the viruses, it is worth talking about as its own topic. Among the dangers is that ransomware cannot be removed with an anti-virus program and many times it cannot be removed with a restore point or system restore either. A backup of your files is the only defense!
Ransomware gets onto your machine just like any other virus, most commonly through e-mail attachments. Once it has been loaded on your machine, it runs itself in the background, and the user will have no idea that the machine has been infected. Over the next few hours or days, when the machine is on, the ransomware will run in the background and encrypt every file on the computer. Encryption is a type of encoded security, rendering a file unreadable except by the person who has a key to unlock the file. And guess who has that key? The hackers who created the ransomware.
What this means is that all your documents, photos, music files, video files, and everything else of value will not be accessible without the key. The hackers who made the virus will gladly give you that key—for a fee! That is why it is called “ransomware.” The fee for the key is not cheap—usually a few hundred dollars. And there is usually a time limit to pay the ransom. In addition, payment introduces a new liability because during the transaction the hackers may steal your credit card information or initiate other similarly terrible things. However, many victims pay the ransom because they need valuable information from their computer that cannot be replaced; thus, the use of ransomware has continued to grow. Losses are estimated at tens of millions of dollars at this point. The hackers have a huge incentive to keep developing these viruses!
Again, no anti-virus application can decrypt the files on your computer. Usually, the ransomware will also corrupt any restore points (system restores). The ransomware may even encrypt files stored on attached media devices, so external hard drives and USB drives will also be infected. The only defenses are a backup of your computer saved to an external drive that you disconnect after the backup is made and a similar computer backup stored in the cloud. Security experts recommend that you back up your machine at least once a month and keep the backup on a separate drive or use a cloud-based storage service.
Here is what ransomware may look like after an infection:
The Bottom Line
Malware, viruses, and ransomware are still common and, indeed, even proliferating and growing more sophisticated in today’s world. Computer users should exercise constant diligence to maintain the safety of their computers and their information. Fortunately, just a few rules and best practices need to be followed: Install software or accept pop-ups from trusted companies and websites. Open e-mail attachments from sources you know and trust. Scrutinize e-mail addresses and website URLs to make sure they are legitimate. And keep a regular backup of your machine handy in case anything should happen.
Ocreative was established in 2003 as one of the early pioneers of digital advertising and design in the Midwest. The company is made up of bright, honest digital innovators and creative gurus, carving out a niche for themselves and their trusting clients. Along the way, Ocreative has grown to become more recognized as an award-winning, full-service, integrated marketing agency. Ocreative gets big results for its clients, and that puts big smiles on everyone’s faces. Even though the agency’s office is in the Midwest, its clients are located throughout the United States. Ocreative’s portfolio includes expert marketing and strategy, advertising and design, websites and digital marketing, video, and multimedia.