Stop! Think. Delete.

The hackers are getting more and more creative.  That means you have to really pay attention.  It only takes a split second to allow a hacker access to your computer.  One of worst things that’s started happening is known as Ransomware.  Unlike spyware where the activity happens in the background without your knowledge, the idea with ransomware is for you to know exactly what’s going on.

Andrew Clarke

Ransomware is exactly what it sounds like.  The hacker holds the data on your computer or your company’s network hostage by encrypting it until you pay.  If you don’t pay within a specific amount of time, your data is locked forever. There have even been a few police departments that were recently in the news because they were hit … and some of them actually paid!  To avoid getting yourself into this situation:

  • Backup regularly (you’ve heard this advice  a lot … it can’t be overstated) to a source that’s completely separate from your computer.  Having a backup gives the hackers less power, and it gives you more peace of mind.
  • When checking email, don’t open email from unknown sources.  Just delete it.
  • If something comes from someone you know, don’t automatically assume the attachment is safe.  Just because the email says it’s from your friend doesn’t mean your friend sent it.  Is the email something you would normally get from him/her?  Does it sound like it was written by your friend.  If you’re unsure, send your friend a separate email (don’t reply or forward to the questionable email) asking if they actually sent it, or just delete it if it’s not important.  Better safe than sorry.
  • Think before you click.  Think before you click.  Yes, I wrote that twice on purpose.  Don’t fall for scare tactics.  The IRS won’t be sending you email.  They know where you live and tend to contact you via regular mail, certified mail or phone.
  • Don’t fall for random acts of money.  If you’re not expecting money (via PayPal, for example), don’t click the link!
  • Read the name of the bank in the email.  If you don’t bank with them, that’s a clue.
  • Something else that recently made the news … The power company will not turn off your electricity in an hour if you don’t pay up.  That goes back to not falling for scare tactics.

The most important thing is to never, ever, ever pay ransom.  It amazes me that I found articles where some so called security professionals actually advocated paying.  You would be dealing with criminals, so what’s the guarantee that they would actually release your data and not do it again?  In 2014, it was reported by one source that the ransomware CryptoLocker had an estimated 500,000 victims targeted with reported returns of $3 million.

The answer is to backup and click with care.

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