Imagine this: you are seated at home working on your computer, either answering your email or polishing a work related presentation. Suddenly, a message blinks on your screen. The message curtly demands that you send cash to a certain destination, failure to which you will be unable to access any of the documents stored on your computer. You also discover that your keyboard has become unresponsive. Logically, you decide to restart the computer. The screen comes right back on, but to your shock, you are still unable to access any of your files and folders. It dawns on you that your data has been remotely locked via a device on your network, and that no matter how much you try you cannot access it.
The above scenario clearly illustrates what happens in a typical ransomware assault. This has become an acute problem globally, with the WannaCry attack being the latest ransomware attack to affect the largest number of individuals on a worldwide scale. The victims are usually at a loss on what to do.
You can use a ransomware attack as a learning point, and consequently take measures to enhance your protection against similar attacks in the future. Here are five steps that you can take if you have been a victim:
1. Do not pay the Ransom Money
Internet security experts advise that it would be a disastrous mistake to pay off the aggressors. For one, it is an indicator that you have given up control of the situation to the attacker, and that you trust they will amicably resolve the situation. Honestly, this never happens. The aggressor is only interested in ripping you off. Once you pay the ransom, it is unlikely that they will unlock your documents. If in the unlikely event they do, be certain that they will see you as soft victim and mark you for repeated blackmail attacks. Giving in to the attackers’ demands also gives them the impetus to continue perpetrating further attacks on more victims.
Christopher Budd, a security supervisor for the electronics security firm Trend Micro, emphasized the above point in a business article he wrote last July. In the article, he advised victims of ransomware attack not to pay, but to keep in mind that they are handling bad guys. He reiterated that giving in would not guarantee that, as a victim, you would get back all your documents. It would only help the criminals perpetuate this criminal activity. As a worldwide communications threats expert, Christopher Budd definitely understands the pitfalls of giving in to the aggressors.
2. Use a Backup to Reinstall Your Files
Using a computer back up system comes with numerous advantages. Many people use computer backups to access their data in case the computer breaks down. In the same way, the backup will come in handy in case you fall prey to ransomware attacks. You will be able reinstall all your files and folders from the backup system, without having to refer to the aggressors. For this to be effective, ensure that you have set your system to automatically backup all the data that you handle via the computer. Once the backup system is well set, it will operate automatically and you do not have to keep thinking about it; unless something happens and you need to access the data.
3. Update Your OS and Anti-virus
It is important that you regularly update your OS and anti-virus with the latest versions. Microsoft is quite aggressive in addressing security concerns. Actually, the latest update of Microsoft’s Window 10 is fully secure against WannaCry -the latest global ransomware assault. There are several firms and individuals, however, who still use earlier versions of windows, or do not activate automatic updates on the later versions. These firms and individuals would not be protected in case an attack is imminent.
4. Engage the Services of Your IT Division or an Anti-Virus Firm.
The personnel in the IT department of your company may have the technical expertise to recover your data in case your computers are attacked. Inform them immediately you notice the problem, and allow them to try and salvage the situation. Conversely, you may opt to ask anti-virus companies to assist. There are some anti-virus software that could help, but do not peg most of your hopes on this.
5. Reformat Your Hard disk
This is a tough decision to make, because it means you will lose all your data. However, it is a good move compared to the alternative of giving in to the aggressors. So, if all the other solutions are not tenable, go ahead and reformat your hard disk and reinstall the OS. Take the entire ordeal of the attack as a lesson well learnt, and ensure to back up your data once you are back in business.
Importance of Identity Theft Protection
Of course, these kinds of attacks indicate that your computer has been violated. Attackers may have gotten access to important information from your system, in addition to holding it hostage. Just as it is important to protect your computers and devices with operating system updates and anti-virus / anti-malware software, it’s also important to protect your identity. Many carriers offer identity theft insurance endorsements on homeowners or renters insurance policies. Some also offer stand-alone identity theft protection options. If you are concerned about the financial implications of having your identity stolen, be sure to check with us for advice on your best options.