WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?
Ransomware is a particularly malicious variant of computer virus, because it encrypts the infected victim’s files so that they are unreadable, and locked with a unique key. If infected, the only way to unencrypt the files is to pay the author of the virus some amount of money, usually via Bitcoin, which is an untraceable form of currency. Once paid, the author releases to key to the victim, and the files can be unencrypted again. It’s important to note that anti-virus software is useless once the files are encrypted – only the unique key can unencrypt them.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT IT?
Ransomware can spread in multiple ways. Sometimes, it rides along as an attachment in an email pretending to be something it’s not. The victim will click on the attachment, opening the door for the virus to replicate. Other times, it can spread on it’s own, scanning for the Internet for vulnerable computers. There’s no way to protect yourself 100%, we but recommend the following to reduce the odds:
- UPDATE YOUR COMPUTER. Microsoft and Apple will release updates on a regular basis, fixing bugs and loopholes that viruses take advantage of. Your anti-virus should be kept up to date as well.
- BACKUP YOUR FILES. If it’s something you want to keep, be sure to have at least one copy of it on a removable form of media (external hard drive, USB drive, etc). It’s important to disconnect this backup from your computer, otherwise the backups will be encrypted too when the virus strikes.
- BEWARE OF SUSPICIOUS EMAILS. Anything that’s unsolicited, has grammatical or spelling errors, or has unexpected attachments should be considered potentially dangerous. If you can’t confirm the sender, don’t click on any links or attachments within them.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I’VE ALREADY BEEN INFECTED?
Unfortunately with Ransomware, there aren’t many options. With any luck, the victim has a backup of the important files they need. The encrypted files can be discarded, and the backup files restored. Otherwise, the victim will have to pay the ransom or accept that they have lost those files forever. THIS IS WHY ITS CRITICAL TO HAVE A BACKUP OF ANYTHING IMPORTANT – IF YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT, MAKE SURE THERE’S AN OFFLINE BACKUP.
WHAT DOES RAMAPO COLLEGE DO TO PROTECT ME?
All managed computers on campus are automatically updated to include the latest patches. As inconvenient as those “Windows Update” messages can be, they are often the first line of defense to prevent malicious code from spreading. Our anti-virus is also continuously being updated to make sure we are scanning for the latest virus. Unmanaged computers (laptops and personal computers for example) don’t receive such protections if the user disables Windows Updates. It’s up to the individual users to make sure updates are run.
I HAVE OTHER QUESTIONS
Please call us at 201-684-7777. We’ll try to answer any questions you may have.