It’s all over the place, you most likely received a news alert on your smartphone. Unless you’ve been on a deserted island somewhere, you’ve seen the word ransomware and WannaCry by now and you know that it has wreaked havoc in the UK and many countries around the world. But what is ransomware, are you at risk and what can be done about it?
Ransomware is software that gets installed on a PC or a Mac when the person using it is tricked into clicking on a link. The link can come from an email or from an internet search or even a malicious ad. As soon as the link is clicked the software starts installing in the background.
Once installed, the software encrypts all of the files and demands money in order to release those files. Basically, it’s cyber kidnapping of people’s data.
Q: Does it only impact businesses?
A: No, many forms of ransomware have been installed on individuals computers locking them out from everything on their computers from photographs, downloaded music and resumes to financial software and bank statements.
Q: So what is encryption?
A: Encryption, in this case, scrambles the data and locks the user out of their own files. The data becomes so scrambled and unreadable that even firms that specialize in data recovery cannot unscramble it. The only person or firm that can unscramble or decrypt the information is the person who encrypted it in the first place.
Q: Is there a way to fix it without paying the ransom?
A: Maybe. There are several new tools being developed to remove ransomware software and decrypt the files. The very best protection, however, is to have an online backup service so that the files can be put back, or restored, to the way they were before the ransomware.
Q: Can I stop ransomware before it happens.
A: Yes but most people currently aren’t taking the necessary steps to prevent ransomware.
Backup remotely every day
Be extra suspicious of links being sent via email even from people you know.
Ensure that you are using the latest operating system from both Microsoft and Apple and that you are updating them.
“It’s only going to get worse and worse and worse,” said Michael Gazeley, managing director of cybersecurity firm Network Box. “And it’s absurd because companies (people) have had years to prepare for this.”