Ransomware - A Growing Problem

Learn what it is and how to protect yourself.

Ransomware” attacks such as CryptoWall, CryptoLocker and other similar malware are malicious viruses that encrypt data on your local hard drive.  Once the data is encrypted, they demand you to pay money for the encryption key or you cannot access your data.  Your computer then becomes a fancy boat anchor unless you pony up big bucks for the encryption key (which you should never do).

Ransomware viruses are normally sent as email attachments.  Because of this, it’s important to be  careful before clicking on an email attachment.  Before opening an email attachment, be sure the email is something you were expecting and was sent from someone you trust.  Be aware that “From” addresses can be imitated, or “spoofed” so if an email doesn’t seem quite right, don’t open the attachment.

Ransomware viruses can also be delivered through pop up messages or when a user visits a malicious or compromised website.

You can protect yourself from ransomware in the following ways:

  1. Use Reputable Antivirus Software and a Firewall

    Keeping your security software up to date is key in avoiding attacks.  Be aware, there are fake antivirus software products on the market.

  2. Backup Your Files Regularly

    Keep in mind, malware will not only attack your computer, but may also try to work its way across your network.  It's very important that you disconnect from the network and if you are using external drives for backup, unplug these as well.  Regular backups can minimize the effects of ransomware on your computer.

  3. Make Use of Your Popup Blocker

    Not only are popups frustrating interruptions, they are a heavily used tactic by cyber criminals.  If you do not have your popup blocker enabled and a popup appears, close it using the X in the right hand corner.  Do not click on buttons or links within the popup message.

  4. Be Smart and Think Before You Click

    Don’t open attachments on emails from unknown sources and avoid suspicious websites.  If in doubt, leave it alone.

  5. Scan Your System Regularly with Anti-malware Software.

    Not only can this keep your computer safe from viruses it can also help it to run faster.

If you suspect that you may have clicked on a virus or receive a ransomware note, unplug your network cable and shut down your machine. Then contact a member of your IT department.  DWD’s network engineers are also available to assist with removal of the virus.