From the very time when computers began taking their place in our offices and homes, the computer virus has been around. In the pre-internet days these little pieces of malicious code only really affected the software sharing enthusiast, being relatively difficult to spread in the world of 3.5″ floppy disks. Since the late 1990s, however, viruses have been very much a part of life for most computer users, and virus checking software is an integral and often forgotten part of the boot sequence.

Unfortunately, there has been a rise in recent years of a new kind of computer virus – that of Ransomware. As its title suggests, Ransomware puts the proverbial gun to the head of your computer and insists on a response – demanding money for the recovery of your data. Ransomware can come in a number of varieties, but the core is always the same – the malware has encrypted your data and you have to hand over payment for the encryption key. With the rise of anonymous financial transactions such as BITCOIN, it is impossible to trace where your money is going.

And if you pay? Well, you might get your data back for a while, but there’s no guarantee it isn’t going to happen to you again. Ransomware, like most computer viruses, is best dealt with before it happens – with prevention and vigilance. While Ransomware has mainly been hitting home users at present, there’s a creep towards business users – after all the virus isn’t picky towards who it infects.

Protecting yourself

Firstly, make sure your anti-virus software is always up to date. It’s easy to forget about the software which sits in the background, but give it a little foreground attention. Ensure automatic updates are enabled and that anything downloaded off the internet is automatically checked.

Backup your data

At catalyst2, backups are standard with all your hosted data, with an off-site copy of everything ready to be restored should anything happen to your site. Take care to backup any non-hosted data as well. If all does go wrong, it is vital to be able to return to an earlier state.

Avoid sites with malicious content

Most ransomware finds it way to your computer through small downloaded programs which come unsolicited to your machine through unsavoury websites. Be sure to avoid or immediately close sites which ask you to download files you don’t expect and remember to block pop-up windows. Check that the website address you are visiting is as expected and check for slight variations used to imitate legitimate sites, especially where money is involved.

Trust what you know

If a message appears telling you that the FBI are monitoring your computer and it has been locked due to illegal action, the likelihood is that it is a fake, attempting to solicit your credit card details. Don’t fall for these scams.

If Ransomware hits you it could be devastating, so take these small steps today to protect the security of your data.