Just recently, a client of mine was hit with a really nasty virus. This virus is in a fairly new category of malicious software called “ransomware”. Ransomware takes stealing money from you to a new, offensive level. Let me explain.
This particular virus that infected my client’s computer was an “encryption virus”. What this means is that the virus encrypted, or encoded, all of the data files on the hard drive. To be able to use the data again, you need to be able to decrypt (decode) the files. But you can’t do this without the encryption/decryption key. How do you get the encryption key? You pay the crooks their ransom.
So, how to avoid being a victim?
There are certainly several things that all computer users should be doing to avoid being infected by malicious softare of all types:
- Keep your virus software up-to-date.
- Make sure you have an active firewall protecting you.
- Never open attachments from unknown sources.
- Don’t be fooled by the abundant fraudulent attempts to get you to click on offers to clean your computer, to fix computer problems that you probably don’t have, and countless other scams.
But in my opinion this list doesn’t include the single most important thing that all computer users should do regularly. Backups! Even with the most vigilant usage, it is still possible that malicious things will sneak into your computer. This is analogous to getting the flu even though you made sure to get a flu shot in November. If you have a recent backup, you can always recover your precious data.
As per human nature, many people don’t take backups seriously until after they have lost precious data. Don’t wait. Start implementing a good, thorough backup strategy today!