Ransomware. How did we get here? Early on in computer history, viruses just crashed your computer, or displayed pop-up ads. Then, more recently, malware came to be able to use your computer to launch attacks on other internet targets. But now, ransomware is the newest category of malware. The many variants of ransomware all intend to encrypt as many of your files as possible, and then ask you for ransom money to get your data back. Ransomware is aimed at individuals and at businesses; it's indiscriminate.
Ransomware can be a good deal….for the hackers. It is fairly easy for them to create. They can hide quite well, as they are difficult for authorities to find and to prosecute. But mainly, hackers can make huge amounts of money through ransomware. That's a pretty good incentive for a criminal.
Ransomware can affect anyone, but you can protect yourself. Much of your protection can be done with common sense and smart thinking. You can educate yourself to recognize the telltale signs of an email scam, and then be very vigilant about opening your email. Obviously, you will also want to invest in some good antivirus software which will prevent, search for, detect, and remove viruses and other malicious software like worms, trojans, adware, and so forth. And, if you are savvy enough, you can also set yourself or your business up with web filtering software that will restrict what websites a user can visit on his or her computer. All of these safeguards may lend some protection from the next ransomware hacker, but the best course of action for true security will be in the way of data backups.
Yes, backups. They are your best defense against any computer disaster because in the event of any data loss, you will be able to retrieve archived files of all of your computer data which you have proactively placed in some kind of separate storage device. Without a backup, you may find yourself considering paying the ransom to a hacker in a desperate attempt to try to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible. (Tip: don't pay the ransom.)
Not all backups are the same, however. If you think that your iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox accounts are safe, think again. You may have thought that these systems keep copies of your data in some safe location, which can be used as a substitution when you lose your original data. But, in fact, all of these systems can get encrypted by ransomware as easily as your local files can. If you do go with a cloud-based backup option, be sure to choose one that isn’t easily accessible from the OS.
In other words, a desktop folder that syncs with the cloud backup is a risk – the ransomware will find that folder and encrypt its contents, too.
There are two backup options. The first one is an offline, or cold, backup. In this situation, your data can be quickly copied to a physical piece of hardware, like an external hard disk, or a memory card, for example. After the backup is finished, you unplug it from the computer. When you need it, as in the event of a loss due to an attack, you can easily recover your lost data just by plugging the device back in to your computer. Be sure, however, that you are not depending upon the flash drive or external hard drive to be always connected to your computer.
An even better choice for a backup is to store your data and protect it off-site. By sending your data to a remote "vault," it is safe in the event of a disaster, system crash, or a hacker playing the ransomware game. Your data can be sent via off site using media like magnetic tape, for example, or it can be sent electronically through a cloud backup service. Savvy business owners may opt to have their backups managed and stored by third parties who specialize in the commercial protection of off-site data.
The next question is, how often will your data need to be backed up and how much of it should you store? Everything. We have the space to do that. The whole hard drive will need to be backed up to guarantee full protection.
As you can see, there are many factors that go into good business computer backups. It's not difficult, it just needs actually get done.
Don't wait for the next hacker to deliver you the ultimatum of paying ransom for your own property. Be proactive and smart. No excuses. Back it up.