What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a particularly nasty kind of computer hacking, one that is growing in popularity with the criminal community. As the name implies, ransomware is designed to solicit money from its victims, and many people have already paid the price.
The software that makes these ransom demands work can lurk on your computer for weeks or even months, but you will know when it has been activated. If you turn on your computer and are confronted with a message saying that your computer has been locked for security reasons, chances are you have become a victim of ransomware.
Ransomware is designed to stop your computer and your apps from working. The message that indicates the infection may also display a demand for ransom. The amount of the ransom can vary, from $100 or so to multiple thousands of dollars. In exchange for the extortion payment, the malware writers promise to unlock your computer and return control.
With so much of our lives taking place on our computers, it is easy to see why ransomware works so well. If you use your computer to make a living, you cannot afford to be without your programs for a single day. For many people, it is easier to simply pay the hackers off and get on with their lives.
How to Protect Yourself Against Ransomware
The good news is that you can protect yourself and your computer from ransomware with some common-sense security procedures. Taking a proactive approach to ransomware and other malware attacks is critical, since the bad guys are always looking for new ways to break into systems and increase their ill-gotten gains.
The best defense against ransomware, malware and viruses is a good anti-virus program. If your computer came with such a program, make sure it is updated at least once a day. If your computer is not currently protected, you need to download and install an anti-virus program without delay. From paid programs like McAfee and Symantec to free alternatives like AVG and Lavasoft, you should be able to find solid protection quickly.
Downloading a stand-alone anti-spyware program is another important step you can take to protect yourself. Some anti-virus programs come with spyware protection built in, so check your program before installing a third-party product.
Change Your Database Extension From .DAT
If your accounting software uses the .DAT extension, like Adagio does, changing the database extension from .DAT to something else will help protect you. Files with common file name extensions, like .DAT, .XLS, .DOC and .EXE, are particularly vulnerable to ransomware. If your software allows your extensions to be renamed, like Adagio Accounting does, picking something random that is meaningful to you, yet not obvious to others, is what we recommend. We are happy to help walk you through this. Contact Us for help, or call 1.888.534.4344.
What To Do If You Fall Victim
If your best efforts fail and you fall victim to a ransomware demand, you may be able to access your files by starting your PC in safe mode. For most versions of Windows, you can simply tap the F8 key repeatedly to access the safe mode menu. Once the computer is up and running in safe mode, you can try offloading the files you need to a flash drive or external hard drive for safekeeping.
You can also try running your anti-virus software while in safe mode. The program may be able to pick up and cure the infection. You will know when you restart your computer whether the effort was successful. If the ransomware demand is still there, resist the urge to pay. Paying ransomware demands just fuels the bad guys and makes the problem worse.
Instead of giving in to their demands, consult and IT professional and have the infection removed by them. We can recommend one if you need. It may cost you some money, but the peace of mind is well worth the effort. Ransomware is a scary problem, and a growing one, so taking a proactive approach to protection is always the best strategy.