used with permission from Norton by Symantec
By Kevin Haley, Director, Symantec Security Response
I despise all forms of bullying. Perhaps the one I hate most of all is where the bully takes a personal item, snatching it from you, and refuses to give it back. It’s dangled right in front of you, but held just out of reach. You’ll only get it back after doing whatever the bully wants.
Ransomware is an on-line form of the bully’s game of keep-away. Here, the bully gets on your computer and takes your personal files -words documents, photos, financial information, all the things you care about. Those files are still on your computer, dangling in from of you, but they are encrypted now, useless to you. In order to get them unencrypted, you’ll need to pay the bully 300-500 dollars.
This is the fastest growing crime on the Internet. It grew by 4500% in 2014, and shows no signs of stopping, its just too profitable for the bullies. How do you stop the bullies? There are five things that will make a tremendous difference.
Five Simple Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t Pay the Ransom: I can hear someone asking, “But won’t you get your files back if you pay the ransom?” Just like a bully who tires of the keep-away game, you likely will get you files back if you pay. But you may not. Sensing a sucker on the hook, you might get asked to pay again and again. But let’s say you’ve got an honest thief, one willing to unlock your files if you pay. Why would you ever give money to a crook? Especially one who will use the money to fund playing bully to a host of other people? It just doesn’t seem right to me.
- Don’t Click on Attachments in Email: There are a lot of different gangs running ransomware scams, who use different ways to try and infect you. One of the most popular is using spam. The email could be saying there was a package for you that couldn’t be delivered. Or a cool screensaver that you should install. Whatever the con, the bad guys want you to click on an attachment to install the malware. Don’t do it. Just don’t click.
- Do Keep Software Up-to-date: The bad guys know about weaknesses in the software on your PC before you do. And they try to use them to get on your machine. Its called exploiting a vulnerability. Patching removes the vulnerability. If you’re asked if you want to update your software – Do. It. Now. Waiting only helps the bad guys.
- Do Use Security Software: If you have a friend who is a security expert, that spends 24/7 keeping up on all the latest malware threats and watches over your shoulder whenever you are on your computer, you’ll be pretty safe on the internet. Otherwise, get good security software to do that. Make sure it is more than Anti-Virus. I recommend Norton Security.
- Do Backup: No one ever thinks anything bad will happen to them, until it does. I sure hope you never have ransomware infect your machine. But if it ever does, wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy of all your files somewhere safe? You can tell the bully where to get off. Everyone knows they need to back up their files. Now you have one more very good reason to do it.
These ransomware bullies are preying on us. But just by following a few simple do’s and don’t we can protect ourselves from them. And protect ourselves from all the other malware bullies out there.