Ransomware is one of the most insidious and frustrating computer crimes anyone can experience. And unfortunately, its easier now than ever before to become a victim. What follows is a brief overview of what ransomware is, what makes it so dangerous, and what you can do to protect yourself.

What is Ransomware

Ransomware is a specialized virus or malware-type program that takes over control of your computers main functions and/or data. Ransomware effectively holds your computer and data hostage unless you pay a ransom to have the software removed from the very people who created it (sometimes upwards of $500).

How Ransomware gets on your PC

What makes ransomware so dangerous is that it oftentimes masquerades as virus removal or anti-virus software and is hidden within programs designed to look harmless. Ransomware relies on incessant pop-ups and spam emails in order to proliferate, and the potential of having your data erased or shared usually becomes a compelling reason to pay up. Whats worse is that ransomware can 'jump' machines connected to a network, meaning that one infected machine can compromise the data on multiple computers in a household! It's some seriously scary stuff.

What you can do to protect yourself

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1. Always install software updates

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Keeping your operating system software updated can thwart would be criminals from gaining unauthorized access to your computer and data. Periodic software updates are designed specifically to recognize and deny access to new batches of malicious software, including ransomware. To update the software on your Mac, from the desktop:

Click to open the 'App Store' application > Click 'Updates' from the menu items located across on the top of the window > Select 'Restart' on the software update shown at the top of the window to begin updating your software

Note: Updating your software can take up to 15 minutes and will require your computer to be plugged into a power source and restarted.

To update the software on your Windows 10 PC, from the desktop:

Click the Start button, then select Settings  > Update & security  > Windows Update, and then select Change active hours. Your machine will update automatically outside of active hours.

2. Backup your data

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Backing up your data is vital in ensuring that your data remains intact in the event your machine becomes infected. Backup solutions come in many different forms, but we recommend securing a simple backup hard drive to your machine. Believe it or not, it's actually more secure and can even be easier to setup and maintain than cloud-based services (which can be expensive, unreliable, and a mess to work with). All you need is a backup hard drive, a little know-how and you're set to go. If you'd like more info on getting a backup solution online for you, give us a call or setup an in-home service appointment.

3. Never click on or download anything from a pop-up ad

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No legitimate application or update will ever show up as a pop-up ad on an internet browser. If you find yourself being inundated with pop-ups, take note of the website you're visiting and avoid it in the future.

4. Don't click links from emails unless you know the sender is legitimate.

This is a tough one. Email spam is getting incredibly sophisticated, and it can be hard to spot a fake email from a real one. Scammers rely on people ignoring the details, so be careful (especially during the holiday season, when companies are sending many emails hoping to drum up business). If you want to know what to look for when looking at a potential scam email, click here to read our Don't Fall Victim to Phishing Scams This Holiday Season. It's got a lof useful tips on how to avoid opening malicious emails. 

Happy browsing!

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