Defend Your Data From Ransomware
What is Ransomware?
In the past couple of years, many variations of PC security threats known as “ransomware” have become an increasingly popular choice for the creators of malicious software. While they all vary in terms of how they function, they are fundamentally the same; they hold your data hostage unless you pay the ransom.
Can I Just Remove the Virus?
The most harmful and unfortunate strains of ransomware heavily encrypt your documents and give you only a few days to pay what they demand before they permanently delete the key required to unlock your files. Unfortunately, unless you know how to defend yourself and your data against these types of attacks or you are able to remove the virus immediately after it affects your computer, you could face crippling data loss.
In most cases, by the time that your antivirus software detects the virus, it is often too late. The scripts that execute the encryption of your documents are already running, and it does not take a whole lot of time before serious damage is done. If you suspect that your computer has ransomware, the best course of action is the safe and immediate shutdown of your PC to reduce the potential impact on your data.
Can I Protect My Data?
Cryptolocker and CryptoWall are by far the most common variants of cryptographic ransomware, and while they can be catastrophic if they hit one of your devices, there are a number of steps that you can take to defend your data.
The single best way that you can defend your devices is by having an up-to-date backup on an external drive that is ONLY connected to your computer when you are performing the backup. Advanced ransomware has been designed to delete all available system backups, restore points, and previous versions of files, however it obviously cannot delete data from a disconnected source.
*NOTE* If your computer gets infected by any sort of virus, never attempt to restore from or even connect the backup device until you are absolutely certain that the malicious software has been fully removed. Otherwise you risk infecting your backup(s) as well.
• The main channel through which these viruses are distributed is email. Never click on a link or download an attachment in an email unless you are entirely certain of its validity.
• Don’t visit websites you do not trust.
• Never download or open ANY files from an untrusted source, even if the site promises that the files have “been scanned and are virus free.”
• If a website informs you that you have an outdated plugin or codec and are required to install software to continue, never install updates through links that they provide. The ideal way to upgrade items like Flash Player, Silverlight, and Java, is through the application itself, or Flash Player and Java can actually be updated through the Control Panel in Windows.
Antivirus and Other Software
Keeping your antivirus software’s subscription current (if applicable) and definitions up-to-date, in addition to running regular scans and having real-time protection enabled are essential steps in securing your data from any sort of malicious software that you may encounter.
**Note** The following programs are recommended as additional defense measures, however it is important to note that no antivirus software is 100% effective. They can help you avoid some potential security risks but they don’t provide infallible protection from malicious software.
Bitdefender CryptoWall Vaccine – This free program runs inside of Windows and should deter any suspicious programs from encrypting your files.
Bitdefender Trafficlight – This free tool scans webpages for potential security issues and embedded malware. I recommend installing it as an add-on in your browsers, and also turning on the setting for Facebook and Twitter protection.