For those of you that do not know, ransomeware is a form of malware that can render all the data on your computer totally useless unless you pay a monetary ransom to the culprit.  All your pictures, spreadsheets, documents, financial files are locked forever.  And often the ransom demands can be steep, sometimes in the thousands of dollars.  And sadly, somtimes they don’t actually unlock your files, they just take your money.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to avoid ransomware.  Here is a list:

1) Make sure that you are using Malwarebytes 3.0 Premium, the paid version, on any PC or Mac.

2) Make sure all your security updates are up to date, on a PC or Mac.  Also make sure your Microsoft Office and other programs are updated.  Get your updates from the software company and don’t update from a pop-up.   This leads to..

3) Java (not javascript, that’s something else).  This application is easily exploited.  Never update Java from a pop-up.  That is one way to infect your computer.  Ideally, it should be removed from your system entirely.  That is not easily said because several programs on your computer need Java to run.  Consider getting a computer that is never connected to the internet where you can run programs like QuickBooks, Word, Photoshop, etc.  And store important files on it.  Doing that takes a well thought out action plan as all programs need internet updates, but if security is an issue, it should be given some serious thought.  Here is an article from Oracle (the company that distributes and maintains Java) about security steps you can take to minimize your Java risk.

4) Forget Microsoft Internet Explorer.  All it could take is opening one web page and your file infection begins.  That can happen with other browsers as well, but IE is the worst.  Disable Java on all but one browser.  Use that browser for sites that are Java dependent.

5) Back up important files to an external hard drive on a regular basis.

6) Never use public free internet.  Either use your data plan (check into getting an unlimited plan), or if you need to connect to the internet with your laptop on the road, use your hotspot feature on your cell phone and get your wifi from there.

7) Never open emails from people or companies you don’t know or weren’t expecting.  And never click on links from within an e-mail without hovering your mouse over the link to see where it wants to to take you.  An increasing number of emails look very legitimate, but unfortunately are not.

8) Use WPA/WPA2 encryption on your home router.  Never use WEP encryption.

9) If you turn on your computer and see a big official warning sign that you are compromised or infected, chances are you aren’t.  It’s something called Scareware or a Lock-Screen virus. Here is a typical example:

Scary huh? Unplug or turn off your computer immediately and take it to a computer professional (like Need-a-Nerd).  Just make sure whoever you take it to is reputable.  Chances are fairly good we can rescue your system.

10)  Use a cloud based back system on your computer.  Crashplan is very good and has a plan for unlimited data for around $10.00 a month. That’s cheap insurance against the bad guys.  If by chance your system is comprised, at least you can recover your data.

There are other more sophisticated techniques to avoid ransomware.  Give us a call if you are interested in learning more.

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