How to Avoid Ransomware

Accidentally downloading ransomware onto your business computers can be an incredibly stressful experience. However, by following guidelines for online safety you can actually ensure that you never have another ransomware experience ever again!

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is what most people think of when they think of computer viruses. Usually, users accidentally download ransomware by clicking on a link from a non-trusted source. After the program has been downloaded onto your computer it keeps your computer from functioning normally (holding your files for “ransom”) by preventing you from accessing your operating system, encrypting files so that you cannot use them, or preventing certain apps from running.
In order to begin using your computer again, the ransomware will usually make you either pay money or complete surveys, and it might use threatening language or government logos to try and scare you into complying with its demands.

What are the Risks?

Having encrypted files that are inaccessible on your computer (or a completely non-functioning computer system!) can make it impossible for your business to function normally and can place sensitive files at risk. Ransomware can be frustrating to remove, and repairs may require a day or so before you are able to return to business as usual.

How do I Avoid Getting Ransomware on My Computer?

The greatest amount of ransomware is downloaded when someone clicks on a link or attachment through a spam email or online pop-up.  For this reason, the most important thing you can do for preventing ransomware is to educate your staff about online safety.
Both spam emails and internet pop-ups are getting smarter over time – they are no longer obviously spam, and many may include links to “online resumes” or “a relevant article”. Unless you know who sent an email, it is always best practice to avoid opening any links or attachments. As well, you should have a pop-up blocker running in your web browser at all times to prevent ransomware from being downloaded from a particularly insistent pop-up.
Another great way to prevent ransomware from finding your computer is to have an up-to-date antivirus solution installed on your computer. It is always best to talk to your IT provider before choosing your antivirus solution, as (unfortunately) many advertised antivirus programs are actually malware in disguise! It is key to keep your antivirus program updated to the most recent version – new threats appear every day, making an out-of-date antivirus program just as bad as having no protection at all!

How do I Get Rid of Ransomware Once It’s On My Computer?

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having ransomware downloaded on to your computer, don’t panic! Ransomware is scary, but if you take proper steps, you should be able to have everything back to normal within a few hours!
First, don’t pay the ransom that the ransomware demands! Even though they may tell you that you have been caught doing “illegal activities” or that they have government connections, this is a lie. Even if you were to pay the ransomware’s fee, there is no guarantee that your files will be returned to you or that the ransomware will be completely removed. Instead, call your IT provider immediately, and they will be able to help you proceed.
The easiest way for your IT provider to help you is to back up your computer and files from a saved backup file. If you do not already have a strong computer backup procedure, this is just one of many reasons why it is an important investment for your business! Using the most recent backup from before the ransomware was installed, your IT provider should be able to have you back in business relatively quickly! Keep in mind that the more often you backup your system, the fewer files will end up being lost to your ransomware attack.

Ransomware is a scary experience, and can have significant impacts on your business and how well it functions. Prevent ransomware by educating your staff, avoiding suspect links and files, and installing appropriate antivirus software. Ransomware can be scary, but it isn’t the end of the world –  it’s easy to avoid once you know the risks, and can be fixed if you have proper backups available!

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