Imagine switching on your PC or laptop only to be greeted with a strange image demanding that you should pay $200 to someone within the next 24 hours or everything in your computer will be deleted. This is an example of ransomware—the latest way underground criminals use to try to extort money from their innocent victims so they can fund their operations. The last thing you want to happen is for ransomware to make its way into your business. If your PC is infected, ransomware prevents you from using your computer and holds it—and your files—for ransom.

Ransomware can occur on any PC, including the ones you use for your business. Apart from preventing access to Windows, ransomware can encrypt your files to prevent you from using them. Likewise, it stops certain applications (i.e. your web browser) from running. There is no guarantee that fulfilling the ransom can give you access to your files and PC again.

Types of ransomware

 Ransomware is generally divided into two types: encryption and lockscreen. The latter displays a full screen message and prevents you from accessing files and your computer. It will ask you to pay money if you want to access your PC again. Encryption ransomware will change or encrypt your files to prevent you from opening them.

 Older versions of ransomware will tell you that you did something illegal with your computer, so the police or government agency have penalized you and you need to pay a fine. This is a scare tactic to make you give money without revealing it to anyone. Newer versions of ransomware will encrypt files and demand that you pay up to have the files restored.

 Attackers typically look up and target their victims, which could be anyone from the usual home PC user to small enterprises. To prevent ransomware from compromising your business data, always keep a confidential and secure backup of all important and sensitive files in a remote or unconnected drive or in a cloud.

 How to avoid ransomware

 Ransomware can come from almost any source, including viruses and malware. You can get it by visiting suspicious, fake, or unsafe websites, opening unknown or strange emails and attachments, and clicking bad or malicious links on social media, email, and instant messaging apps. Restoring your PC can be difficult after being attacked by ransomware, especially if it is the type that encrypts your files. Hence, the best solution is to be vigilant and practice safe and responsible internet browsing. Here are a few steps to avoiding ransomware: 

  • Never click on a link to webpages in a chat message, email, or from your social media newsfeeds unless you absolutely trust or know the sender or the page.
  • When in doubt, do not click.
  • Be wary of suspicious or fake emails. They usually have bad spelling or they simply look unusual.

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