What is a ransomware attack?
Simply put, it’s a virus attack that encrypts all the files on your computer/laptop and makes it impossible to access your data. Even though the file is still sitting on your computer/laptop, it’s just not sitting pretty anymore. You are not in a position to really do much till the time you cough up the money(read ransom) to decrypt it. This is worse, as you can’t really report your data stolen; because it’s not. Your files are just where they were, before the attack. Just not the same files anymore, as you cannot get access to your data. If you have backups, fantastic. Screw these a**holes, you can restore your data in a few hours. However, we do hope that backup drive was stored in a safe place after your last backup, and not attached to your computer at the time you got infected. If you fall in the latter category, you have just lost all your backups as well to ransomware.
What do you stand to lose from it?
Everything! You might think you do not have much saved on your computer, think again; what about pictures from your last vacation? Documents and presentations you worked on for weeks/months/years? Pictures of family time spent together? What would losing that mean to you? These must be priceless, to say the least.
Hey, I have an antivirus. I am protected!
One word answer, NO. The reason being the way Antivirus software work. Antiviruses work by storing a massive database of digital signatures of known viruses. When you scan your computer, it checks each file against this digital signature list to see if it comes up with a match. If it does, it flags the file as a threat and attempts to quarantine and delete it. To detect previously unknown viruses Antiviruses use heuristic analysis. They study the behaviour of the software that is presently installed and running on the computer and if they find any suspicious activity, the antivirus flags it as a potential threat. This approach while effective, does not guarantee that every instance of an attack will be caught. A ransomware attack, might just catch an antivirus off guard.
So what can you do to stay safe?
- Patch, Patch, Patch. Make sure your Operating System is patched at all times. Never leave installing updates for later.
- Make sure you have security software installed and definitions for those are updated daily. Scan your computer on a regular basis.
- Maintain regular backups of your data on an external drive and make sure to disconnect the drive after completing your back and store it in a safe place.
- Exercise good judgement when downloading attachments sent via emails. Not viewing a few cat videos, certainly will not ruin your day. But downloading a malicious file, just might. So use caution.