If you do not already know what ransomware is, you have been lucky. For a more detailed explanation, see our blog from last year, but here is a brief overview of the digital epidemic:
Ransomware is the colloquial term for malicious software that takes over your computer and demands payment to unlock it. Your computer is up for ransom.
An attacker likely infiltrated your system through disguised advertisements or emails. It may take the form of a website link, digital flyer for a retail store, or an attached document. Once you open the spam, your computer is in the hacker's hands.
Then you receive a message on-screen demanding payment for the release of your files. There are two popular forms this message arrives in: basic pop-up or faux government warning. Trust us, the feds will not accuse you of a crime by remotely taking over your laptop and asking you to pay a "fine" in Bitcoin.
This form of cybercrime has only become more common since 2012 and costs billions. 2017 saw an array of attacks that cost as much. WannaCry alone cost nearly $4 billion. Then SamSam dominated headlines early in 2018 with a number of major hacks - most famously executing an attack on the city of Atlanta. While this may seem dire, no need to panic. Apogee IT Services protects against these attacks. But whether you are a client or not, you should follow these suggestions to prevent damage:
Do: backup your data
Get your files onto the Cloud. Apogee manages this for our clients, but make sure you are storing every bit of important data into an offsite host server. Have doubts about the Cloud? You could go the hardware route and keep thumbdrives with all of your files handy, but we advise against that. Read more about the Cloud here.
Don't: allow a program to make changes to your device unless you know exactly what it does
If you see a pop-up message that looks like either of these, you need to take serious caution. Allowing a malicious program to make changes to your device could spell doom.
Do: download antivirus software
Again, Apogee clients are covered; but invest in dependable malware protection. A few common companies are McAfee and Norton. These programs will detect and inform you of threats.
Don't: download or click on anything from an unknown sender
As mentioned, ransomware can be well-disguised as a PDF, Excel file, advertisement, etc. If the link is sent by a mysterious address, do not dare to open anything. Immediately block and report the message as spam. If the link is sent by someone in your contacts, check with them via alternative communication means that they intentionally sent it. Email and social media accounts are hacked all the time, you cannot automatically trust the attachments are benign.
Don't: panic or pay the ransom
If you get attacked, there is hope. The FBI suggests that victims refrain from paying the hackers for the release of their computer and data. Once your wallet is safely put away, log off any remote connections you may have open, and immediately power off your computer. Then call our help desk at 1-844-927-6433 so we can get started on cleaning your computers and network, and recovering your files.
The threat of cyber terror is imminent and frightening. There is, however, much you can do to protect yourself and your company.