Ransomware is never a fun topic to discuss. This wave of vicious malware has hurt countless businesses, creating a billion-dollar crime industry. While Ransomware can be scary, it is important to understand what it is and how to react to it being on your computer.

Is Ransomware Vicious?

Ransomware comes in many different forms. For the most part, ransomware works by locking you out of your data, rendering your computer useless. The malware is designed to unlock as soon as the hackers receive money, gift cards, or bitcoins.

In some cases, the ransomware will not encrypt all of the computer data. Instead, it locks the computer on a payment screen. Usually this locked message will appear very threatening, typically accusing the user of crime and demanding gift cards in exchange for silence. It is important to note that no government or law enforcement agency uses anything close to ransomware. If you were performing illegal activity, your fine would be much greater than a few iTunes gift cards or bitcoins!

File-encrypting ransomware is far more malicious. This malware hijacks all of the data on a device and encrypts it. Because all applications are locked, the previous version of the hard drive cannot always be restored.

All forms of ransomware can be equally as devastating if found on a personal computer. While you may be tempted to make a payment to unlock your computer, local assistance is available to help you recover from the attack without paying.

How to Avoid Ransomware Attacks

While there is no surefire way of avoiding ransomware attacks, there are a few steps individuals can take to help deflect some attackers.

First of all, it is important to backup your computer data on a regular basis. In the past, most computer experts recommended the average user backup their files once a month. If the computer was being used to store important information, backing up every week is highly recommended. The more important the data is, the more often it should be backed up.

Individuals may want to consider investing in private cloud storage, rather than simply backing up their data on an external hard drive. Cloud storage can be automatically synced to device folders or documents can easily be added to the service. This makes backing up important files as easy as pointing and clicking!

In addition to backing up data as often as needed, individuals should also pay close attention to any system updates the have available. Microsoft and Apple both add patches as they discover security breaches. Even if a user has a firewall or other security features, hackers can still find ways onto your device.

Suspicious emails can also lead to ransomware infestations. If an email subject looks like spam or doesn’t sound quite right, delete it immediately. Avoid opening it at all costs and never click a link. In fact, use your browser to manually type in links as much as possible. This can help you from becoming a victim of spoof emails!

What to Do If You See Ransomware

Once you see ransomware on your computer, you may be tempted to pay whatever amount the hackers ask for. This forces many people to make a difficult decision: encourage the criminals or lose the data forever.

Most individuals are better off not paying the ransom and contacting a technical support company. They don’t need to worry about entire network infestation and likely don’t have too many files on their computer that aren’t backed up somewhere online. If you took the time to backup your computer data onto a cloud, you will be in a much better position.

If you are tech-saavy, you can attempt to correct the issue yourself by manually restoring factory default settings on the device. Some forms of ransomware can be eliminated from the device using a virus scanner. Both of these options can be a little difficult depending on the level of infestation and type of ransomware you are dealing with.

Don’t be afraid to seek help when dealing with a ransomware attack. Working with a third-party can help you get the technical support you need to safely recover your files. Ransomware may be becoming a bigger problem around the world, but there are several ways to prevent and cure damage to your data.