Cybersecurity is the top priority for most businesses who store digital files and information on their computers. The problem is that new viruses and other security threats are constantly appearing – and among these is ransomware, one of the fastest-growing forms of malware. According to the FBI, ransomware costs businesses, individuals, and organizations over $1 million every month to remove – and many times, it often comes at the cost of users’ files and data. Thankfully, there are ways you can avoid falling victim to this malware by taking a few steps towards threat assessment and data recovery.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects users’ computers and takes their files hostage, encrypting them and preventing the user from accessing documents, photos, music, and other digital information stored on their computer. Unless the user pays a ransom by a specified time, the affected files are impossible to decrypt.

One of the most well-known ransomware types is Cryptolocker, which was brought down by a Department of Justice investigation in 2014. According to Today Money, a computer infected with Cryptolocker can demand around $500 for the user to regain access to his or her files, with the figure rising to $1,000 as the countdown approaches zero.

According to a report from Forbes, ransomware incidents have been increasing in recent years and the malware has even targeted organizations such as police departments, which have been forced to pay ransoms to receive their files.

How does it happen?

This attack begins when a user clicks a link or attachment in an email, text message or malicious website and downloads the malware to his or her system. Ransomware creators are notorious for crafting realistic-looking emails; you might think that an email is from your bank or from the IRS, when it is actually a trap for downloading ransomware. Once a ransomware virus has been installed on your computer, it can be removed, but there is nothing you can do to recover your files aside from paying the fee (many times in the form of Bitcoin).

How can you prevent you and your organization from falling victim?

Although ransomware is one of the most subversive and persistent forms of malware, it is also one of the easiest to guard against – mainly, by backing up your files. If hackers can’t claim exclusive access to and control over your documents. As a result, making copies of your files (backing them up) in the cloud or in an external hard drive is the best solution. The only caveat is that if the hard drive is connected to your computer, it can be infected as well – so make sure to disconnect when opening emails. Using antivirus software that specifically looks for ransomware is another way to detect this form of malware and get rid of it before it becomes a problem.

Another way to prevent yourself or your business from falling victim is to know what to look for and avoid opening emails or downloading attachments that are likely to contain ransomware. Do not download attachments that look suspicious or are from anyone that you do not know; the same goes for clicking on links and advertisements. We at Global Learning Systems offer a security short training video for organizations wanting to educate their employees on how to recognize and avoid ransomware attacks. Contact us today!