When we think of ransom, we typically think of a black-and-white movie with a kidnapper leaving notes made from a variety of newspaper cuttings. Today, ransom is much less melodramatic, much more common and targets something you might not expect: your computer files.
1.) Don’t trust online solutions
For starters, there are many software programs that promise to completely rid your computer of ransomware, but those are best left on the virtual shelf. Ironically, some of those alleged file-saving downloads are actually ransomware in disguise. Your best bet is to backup your files however you can – onto an external hard drive, onto a separate computer or even on paper. Anything you do will ensure that, when the hackers come, you’ll already have those encrypted files elsewhere. It’s advisable to check at least once a month to ensure everything you need is safely backed up.
2.) Hold onto your money
While it might seem like the only option that gives you a chance to get your files back, the FBI has issued a statement asking people not to pay such ransoms. If hackers are paid, they have more incentive to continue, and payment really doesn’t influence whether they decrypt your files or not. “The FBI does not condone payment of ransom, as payment of extortion monies may encourage continued criminal activity, lead to other victimizations, or be used to facilitate serious crimes,” as FBI Special Agent Christopher Stangl elaborates in an interview. If you’re desperate for your files, paying may seem like the only option, but consider the difference that could be made if no one paid them anymore. Crime syndicates would be stopped without any work from the FBI.
3.) Call the cops, but don’t hold your breath
Many are currently asking whether anything significant has been done by the FBI to this point. This includes Sen. Ron Wyden, who wrote to James Comey, the director of the FBI, to ask how the agency intended to clean up the ransomware problem. Comey responded that they were making progress, but pointed out that making arrests wasn’t easy as “most of the top cybercriminal actors are located outside of the United States.” Still, he went on to assure Wyden that, “The FBI is committed to following the money in investigating all crimes with a financial component; ransomware is no exception.”
4.) Back up and stay safe
While the FBI has its best men on the task of catching these cyber culprits, it’s your responsibility to be as safe as possible until they do. Back your files up. Don’t click on any sketchy-looking links. Buy security that a trusted provider assures you is safe. Ransom is no longer a thing of black-and-white movies; but in the digital age, it’s still our job to protect ourselves.
Photo Source: From Barney Oldfield‘s “Race For A Life” 1913 Silent Movie.