You might have read about the recent worldwide ransomware attack. Ransomware is a very serious threat. This is a type of malware or virus which encrypts all your files and demands money to decrypt them. If you do not pay within a stipulated period all your files are deleted. The only solution is to either pay or format your computer and lose all your data.
How to protect yourself against ransomware or any kind of virus/malware?
A virus is nothing but an application. It does not execute itself. It needs to be executed by the user. The most common ways a malware gets executed is when it is embedded in another type of file. Most common ways to execute malware are macros in Office documents and auto extracting RAR files.
If you receive an email from an unknown source which says you have received an invoice or a receipt for a payment with a Word document attachment, DO NOT OPEN IT. Delete it immediately. The Word doc is probably containing a macro which will download the malware on your computer and execute it. Similarly, if you get a rar or zip file in attachment, do not open it. Rule of the thumb is if you receive an email from an unknown source with an attachment or a link to download something – DELETE IT. No matter how tempting or threatening it is. The mail may claim to be from your bank, tax authorities or FBI. Don’t open it. Just delete it.
Same precaution must be taken while downloading files from Torrents or file sharing websites. If possible avoid it. Do not insert pen drives or external hard drives from your friends' computer.
Do not keep writable shared folders on your computer. If one computer on network is affected it will scan the entire network and encrypt all the writable shared folders it can find.
Take regular backups. Keep online and offline backups. Do not keep your physical backup media attached to your computer all the time. Take a backup and detach it. The ransomware also encrypts the data on all the attached /mapped drives it can find. If that happens even your backup is gone. If you keep online backup in Google Docs or Dropbox, it will sync your encrypted files as well so even that data is gone, so keep multiple backups.
If your computer gets infected, the first thing you should do is shut it down. Just pull the power cable. Disconnect it from the network. Disconnect all the connected drives. Start the computer in command prompt mode and try to salvage whatever data you can.
There is no cure for ransomware. Prevention is the best option.
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