Today, hostage-taking is no longer something out your favourite action movies. It can happen at any point in our day-to-day life and paralyze our computer and the files stored on it.
Since protecting your personal information is essential for keeping your money safe, this article covers everything you need to know to avoid falling prey to hackers and ransomware.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is malware that infects your computer or other device and demands a ransom in order to “unlock” the device. It takes control of your device, locks it and prevents you from accessing it or opening the files stored on it.
Generally, cybercriminals will trick you by encouraging you to download a seemingly harmless program to your device, which then locks your device. Once that happens, you can no longer access your device unless you pay a ransom. It takes just 18 seconds for your device to be held hostage with ransomware.
How do you recognize ransomware?
There are two main ways of realizing you’re a victim of ransomware. It can lock your screen, displaying an unwanted image that blocks access to your computer. It can also encrypt files on your computer’s hard drive, and sometimes also on shared networks, USB keys, external hard drives and in the cloud, preventing you from accessing them.
In either case, to recover your files and restore access to your device, you are forced to make a payment.
How can you protect yourself against ransomware?
The following best practices can help you protect yourself against this type of fraud.
Be cautious of suspicious files and websites that could prompt you to do something you shouldn’t. Ransomware doesn’t just happen randomly. You can get it through e-mail attachments, infected programs and malicious websites. Even if a website or attachment appears to be authentic, carefully check the sender details and the forwarding addresses.
Ensure access to your files by saving them not just on one device. If you regularly back up your files to an external hard drive or to the cloud, you will be able to recover them easily if your device is locked.
Update your operating systems frequently to prevent your device from becoming infected.
What should you do if your device gets infected?
If, despite all your precautions, you still fall prey to ransomware, here are a few things you can do.
First, disconnect from the Internet right away so the ransomware doesn’t infect any other devices. Then, check with a computer technician to see if you can recover your data and/or regain control of your device. Finally, be responsible and inform the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Canadian Centre for Cyber Security of what happened.
Under no circumstances should you confirm your vulnerability by paying a ransom. The perpetrators have no incentive to insist, especially if you are getting help. Finally, remember you won’t necessarily get your access back by paying the ransom. It’s unlikely cybercriminals will suddenly start treating their victims justly.
In short, by knowing more about the “personality” of ransomware and the behaviour of the cybercriminals who use it, you will be able to keep your cool if you are attacked like this.
Want to know more about how to surf the web safely? See our tips to stay safe from hackers, scammers and cybercrime.