What is ransomware, and how to defend against it.

Ransomware is without a doubt the most aggressive, and devastating form of virus doing the rounds on the Internet.  It’s not new, but with the notorious hacker group responsible for a wave of high profile attacks across the world, returning from retirement (according to the BBC), and a wave of new attacks, it’s a good time to discuss it, and give you information on how you can best protect yourself from it.

So what is Ransomware?

Ransomware is different from other types of viruses. Quite simply, once a computer or laptop is infected, all of the data on that device is encrypted rendering it completely inaccessible to the user.  This has devastated large corporations, including our beloved NHS, but from a home user perspective, you can lose your photos, videos, work documents, personal documents, and essentially everything on your computer.  With encryption designed to be unbreakable, there is absolutely no way to decrypt your files without the encryption password.

In order to obtain the password, you’re required to pay a ransom (hence the name) in anonymous bitcoin (complicated) and there’s a high chance that once you pay, you’ll never hear from the hacker again, or at least until you’re reinfected.

It gets worse

One of the biggest issues with ransomware and crypto viruses, is they don’t just encrypt the files on your laptop or computer, they encrypt the files on any attached device such as a backup drive or network drive (NAS).  This means that even if you backup to an external hard drive, it will encrypt all the files on that too.

So how can you defend against ransomware?

Firstly, a premium antivirus program is the first line of defence.  At The IT Folk, we use ESET which comes with a Ransomware Shield built in.

Ransomware Shield monitors the behaviour of applications and processes that try to modify your personal data. If an application’s behavior is considered malicious or the reputation-based scanning shows an application to be suspicious, the application is blocked or the user will be asked to block or allow it.

Secondly, an offsite, cloud backup service like LiveDrive is recommended. Because LiveDrive Backup uses its own software to backup to a military grade secure storage account, the crypto virus has no way to infect your files.  Should you succumb to a ransomware attack and find your computer encrypted, the worst case scenario is you simply reinstall Windows, and recover your files from your secure LiveDrive account.

Our ‘unlimited’ cloud backup subscription means there’s no cap on storage. This means you can backup those large family videos and an unlimited number of photos and files. It works automatically in the background so you don’t have to remember to backup your files. It’s only £29.99 per year and that’s a great price for total peace of mind.