Good morning folks. Most of you have heard all about ransomware and how it can adversely affect your computer. And most of you have probably said “It can’t happen to me”. Well let me bring you up to speed. It CAN and MIGHT happen to you when you least expect it.
I have a friend who called me a couple of weeks ago who was having problems with JPG images on his laptop. I went over and looked and it kept prompting that the header in the JOG was corrupt, or the wrong viewer was set up. So I tried resetting the default viewer, changing to a different viewer, anything I could think of. Still no success. Funny thing was, I could access JPG files in the cloud or on portable devices.
Then out of the blue, he said he had several “Recover” text and html files on his machine. And then it hit me…he was the victim of Ransomware. In looking at the text files, it clearly stated that the files had been encrypted with a tool that rendered the files useless unless he paid the price to get the code. AND he had to pay the “ransom” via BitCoin. And that the longer he waited to pay the price, it would just increase.
Now you may think it is a joke, and that you can just go to Norton or Avast or some other cleaning program and fix it. But you can’t. And he was lucky, because it just got his JPG files. But ransomware can access and effectively kill ALL your images, documents, PDF files, and other potentially critical person files. No, it won’t shut your computer down. You can still surf, and create new files, and add new images to your machine. But the ones that have been hit…well…pay to get them back, or they are gone forever and ever amen.
The reason I wanted to share this, is that there are ways to avoid this. First and foremost, ransomeware can not just appear on your machine. You have to “allow it” onto your system. Allow it? Yes, you have to install some software and not pay attention to where it came from or what it is adding without your permission, or maybe you are visiting a website and it pops up a window and you just automatically click YES without reading things. But the bottom line is ransomware can only get on your machine because of you.
Second, it’s a good time to start the practice of backing up your data. Daily or weekly or at least monthly, back up your library (Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos) to an external hard drive. Better yet, when you are creating documents, save them externally as you create them. Transfer your photos immediately to an external drive, and then work from there. Also, consider getting a cloud account somewhere (Google Drive and Google Photo come to mind immediately) and back you photos and document there immediately. Same goes for your cell phone photos. Get Google Photo and have your cell phone to automatically add all cell phone shots to the cloud as soon as you are on WiFi. This will save heartache later on.
Finally, have multiple backups of your work for several reasons. External storage and cloud storage is readily and cost effectively available these days. Most computers have smaller internal hard drives. Buy an external drive to use regularly, then have another one to backup to. That way you can keep the backup in a fire safe box or safety deposit box, or anywhere you can grab and go with in the case of a disaster. Also, USE THE CLOUD. Obviously you do not want to put personal documentation in the cloud, but photos and items that you just want to keep copies of are fine.
So the moral of the story today is ranomware IS real, it CAN and MIGHT bite you when you least expect it, and unless you pay, you will lose what you have. Also, BACKUP your data. Unless of course you want to run the risk of losing important photos and documents.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments area.