Hackers can lock you out of your files and make you pay to get them back. Here's what to do.
“I don’t know how to lock my front door. I’m not quite sure what I’d do if someone broke in, but maybe if I pay off the burglars or ask them not to touch anything, I’ll be fine.”
While you’re probably reeling from the sheer ridiculousness of that statement, that is how many have approached ransomware. According to a recent study conducted by Kaspersky Lab, 43 percent of people don’t even know what it is.
Ransomware is dangerous software that allows an outside user to take control of a digital device and lock you out of it by using encryption. Unlike other malware, you may be able to recover your files… if you pay up.
Initially these attacks were conducted on a small scale. However, these extortionists have become more sophisticated, targeting hospitals, police departments, and corporations. Over the last two years, victims have lost over $47 million to ransomware.
Despite its prevalence, only 13 percent of consumers say ransomware is a real concern. The study also found that:
- Just short of half of people (46 percent) wouldn’t know what steps to take after an attack.
- Nearly a quarter (24 percent) believe paying a ransom would suffice (though that didn’t work out so well for Kansas Heart Hospital)
- Almost one in 10 (nine percent) believe they could attempt to negotiate with the blackmailers.
However, you can easily be proactive against these attacks. Steps to do so include:
- Having internet security on your device
- Updating devices with the newest security patches
- Backing up your important files and information to a detached hard drive
If you have already contracted ransomware on your device, you should contact law enforcement immediately. Disconnect your computer from Wi-Fi as attackers may be able to compromise other devices on the same network.
You also need to decide whether or not paying the ransom is worth it. While it may be tempting, there is no assurance that the cyber thieves will grant you the key to unlock your device. And if they do, nothing is stopping them from encrypting it later on. Paying the ransom also gives them the incentive to ransom others.