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Ransomware and the Everyday Person

Published March 10, 2020

Ransomware is a type of software that will effectively kidnap your data/files from your electronic devices. The person in control of the malware and your data will then demand a ransom to restore or return your files.

How Does it Happen?

Most commonly, ransomware infects a device through email. Unsuspecting people will open an email or click a link in an email and the ransomware will begin downloading onto their device.

It may be days or even weeks before you realize your computer, phone or tablet installed ransomware. When you attempt to open a file, your device will tell you the file is encrypted, the file is an unknown file type or that there is not an application on the computer which can open it.

How to Prevent it:

Reliable anti-virus software can help protect your devices from ransomware by stopping suspicious downloads. Most new electronics have protective software pre-installed. Keeping these installed can help prevent successful ransomware attacks on your devices.

With external hard drives and internet storage now widely available, it is easy to back-up important files such as family photos and tax documents. Prioritize your files and back-up the most important ones on a flash drive or in the cloud as soon as possible rather than waiting to get an external hard drive. Internet storage,or the cloud, is another option that may be faster and cheaper than purchasing a hard drive.

Ransomware crooks prey on curiosity. Don’t open emails from people or companies you don’t know! The subject lines of ransomware emails are designed to make people click. They might mention a payment error or payroll update. Sometimes they attempt to trick people into thinking their emails are replies to emails sent out by putting “Re:” in the subject line.

When determining if an email will contain ransomware (a phish email) be sure to examine the sender email address and subject line carefully. In the worst case scenario that you accidentally delete or report a legitimate email, the person trying to reach you will find another way if it’s important. Better safe than sorry is the best approach to take when going through your emails.

When/If it Happens to You:

Once your data is taken from you, the thieve will demand money, often in bitcoin, in exchange for your information back. Unfortunately, even if you decide to give in to the ransom, you still may not get your files back if the kidnapper decides to keep you on the hook.

You can attempt to remove the ransomware using software but you run the risk of downloading more malware if you don’t do thorough research on the credibility of the ransomware removal software. Some ransomware won’t respond to even credible and reliable ransomware removal if it’s especially new or sophisticated.

While it may be a painful, the most reliable way to get rid of ransomware is to format your hard disks and reinstall all device systems. This method will delete every file on your device but it is the best chance you have of completely getting rid of the malware.

Be sure to practice the preventative methods mentioned above to help protect yourself from the severe consequences of ransomware attacks.

Centennial Bank, Member FDIC.

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