‘Ransomware’ PSA

Over the past few months, several variations of malicious software dubbed ‘ransomware’ have been released.

Why does this affect me?

Ransomware has the ability to ‘lock’ all of your documents, pictures, and files on your computer. Several variants are also able to encrypt data on backup drives, USB flash drives, and even network storage. Once your files are locked, the malware will demand payment via BitCoin (a form of internet currency) for the equivalent amount of around $300 USD at the time this article was composed. After payment, the majority of victims still do not get their files back.

How can I prevent this from happening?

The best way to prevent any Internet-based infection is to be very cautious when opening e-mails, clicking on links, or downloading software. A large number of PC infections begin with illegal music and software downloads, ‘free’ games, bargain/coupon sites (We recommend RetailMeNot.com as a legitimate source of internet bargains), and adult content sites.

Even the most careful of Internet surfers can become infected with malware, so it is best to have a secondary or even tertiary line of defense. We recommend either BitDefender® or ESET® antivirus, paired with Malwarebytes’® Premium and HitmanPro.Alert. Norton® and McAfee® antivirus are riding on their reputation from years ago, and their performance has fallen greatly behind the currently leading competitors.

How do I know if my computer is infected?

In most cases, the first signs of infection are not being able to open files on your computer, getting messages when opening the file saying that the file is corrupt, and getting strange symbols when you open a document. Generally, the infection will also leave behind files called DECRYPT_INSTRUCTIONS, last_chance, or BUYUNLOCKCODE.

Help! I’ve been infected!

Turn off your computer immediately, and contact us as soon as possible. The sooner the infection is caught, the greater the chance of file recovery. In some cases, files are irreversibly lost, but we are typically able to recover them as long as the device is powered off immediately.