The latest trend in computer hacking is something known as ransomware, and it’s one of the most dangerous cyber-security threats for individuals and businesses of all sizes. If a computer is infected with ransomware, the user will not be able to log in. Along with an “Access Denied” message, the user will receive instructions for making a payment to receive a decryption code that will unlock the inaccessible files. In 2016, a hospital in California paid a ransom of $17,000 to unlock critical patient files.
Ransomware is a form of malware that users unknowingly install. It often sneaks in through a seemingly harmless email or download or through a connected device. When it infects the computer, it scrambles the files so that they are not readable without a key. Now that more and more things, including phones, smart TVs, copy machines, and home appliances, are connected to the internet, the potential of this kind of malware to get through to consumers is growing.
One way to minimize the threat of ransomware is to backup files on a frequent, regular basis. Flash drives, external hard drives, and cloud services all provide backup solutions. Unfortunately, it’s always possible that a ransomware attack will occur just before you’ve backed up the latest version of a crucial file, and you’ll find your client’s project or your term paper locked until a hefty ransom is paid.
If a ransomware attack happens, it’s possible that the file can be removed. There are companies that specialize in cyber security and know how to remove or disable the latest types of malware. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that files can be retrieved once they’re locked, though. Experts recommend following a cyber security protocol that includes backing up all files daily to an off-site location, saving segments of data in different places, and recognizing the types of emails that can pose threats.
It’s also a good idea to have a plan in place for dealing with a successful attack if it happens. This can involve knowing who to call for help and knowing in advance whether paying a ransom is an option.