Ransomware Questions? Learn More.

Here’s an FAQ to tell you what you need to know about ransomware.

What is ransomware?

Cybercriminals are using something called “ransomware” to essentially hold data on Windows-based computers hostage by encrypting files, making them unusable and demanding “ransom” payment before potentially restoring access. Some recent strains have been even more destructive, appearing to be ransomware, but not offering a viable way to restore your data.

How would I know it’s happening to me?

These cybercriminals have designed their ransomware to reboot your computer and display a screen to present their ransom demands and instructions on how to comply. This image is unmistakable and unavoidable. Once it occurs, your data, technically speaking, has been encrypted.

How do I avoid an attack?

First, make sure you’ve activated automatic updates for your computer’s operating system and all applications. Next, make certain you have a leading anti-virus software package installed on your computer. If you don’t have one, you can research and purchase here.

Ransomware viruses can spread when people click on a seemingly harmless message in an e-mail or on a website that actually links to ransomware. This locks their computer's hard drive and files, making it difficult to recover the data unless a demanded ransom is paid. So, be careful when opening attachments or clicking on links that are unknown to you, or using public wireless networks if your systems have not been updated and anti-virus software has not been installed.

What else can I do?

It’s always important to have important data backed up onto an external device or in the cloud. Please note that if using an external hard drive it is advisable to unplug it from your computer when not in use so that the files on it won’t be adversely affected if your computer ever becomes infected. Cloud storage is available through a number of third parties.

If I’m affected and do not have my data backed up in the cloud or on an external hard drive, what can I do?

Industry experts do not advise paying the ransom because there is no guarantee your data will be available to you after payment is made. Sometimes the ability to pay is disrupted by the e-mail companies the cybercriminals use or the cybercriminals that perpetrate the crime have no intention of making good on their promise to restore the data. Essentially, you pay at your own risk. Additionally, it is believed that people who do make payments could be targeted in the future for additional ransom attacks.

There is an opportunity to attempt a data recovery for a fee but there are no guarantees of recovery.

If I’m affected and do have my data backed up, what can I do?

If you have your files backed up, it is possible to “rebuild” your computer using those saved files. If you’re familiar with the process, you can do this yourself. However, please be aware that your computer can infect other computers on your network so take the appropriate precautions.

You can also seek the assistance of our expert Geek Squad® Agents. You can come into the store for help, or we can come to your home or help you over the phone.

If my computer is infected, how do I avoid it infecting other computers on my network?

Ransomware can often affect other computers on the same wireless or wired network. If you discover ransomware on your computer, you should power the device off immediately and take appropriate precautions before turning it back on. This would include turning off the Wi-Fi or unplugging any wired connections on any other computing devices in your home.

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