Right now hackers are trying to trick you into installing ransomware on your computerRansomware is that nasty stuff that we’re beginning to hear more and more about that can turn your computer’s hard drive into a useless piece of trash almost in the blink of an eye.

Ransomware will encrypt all your files and parts of your operating system and lock you out until you have paid whatever ransom the hacker, who sent you that ransomware, wants.

They only care about the money

The hacker doesn’t care whether you’re a multi-national business or a poor struggling student. The hacker doesn’t care if your entire business is contained in those encrypted files on your hard drive and if you don’t get them back your entire family will be living on the streets.

The hacker doesn’t care if your hard drive holds the only photos that you have of your dead children and if you don’t get them back you’ll kill yourself.

They don’t care about anything but the money they want you to pay them. If you do pay them then they probably will send you the key to unencrypt your files but if you don’t pay them it’s almost guaranteed that you will never get access to those files again.

It’s a nasty position to be in especially when you discover that the ransom is usually a large sum of money and the bad guys are not going to negotiate.

The feelings your left with become even worse when you eventually realise that there are four simple things you can do to reduce your chances of being hit with ransomware.

The Internet is a Dark and Dangerous Place

Understand that the Internet is a great place to do business and have some fun but it’s also full of nasty people who want to do nasty things to you and your business. Be alert to the risks that are lurking on the Net and stop thinking that your safe on the Net.

Have a security mindset and question everything you do online before you do it.

No website, no link, no email, should be considered to be 100% safe.

Invest in good, paid, security programs

Have an up-to-date suite of security programs installed on your computer. An anti-virus program is not enough anymore. A program that detects Malware is also needed and some anti-ransomware programs are starting to appear so install one of those too.

Having those security programs installed is great but you have to keep them updated too. Just as your favourite software is continually being upgraded so too are all the nasty software that hackers use so keep your security software updated or the hackers will get around it with no trouble at all.

Of course, these programs cost money and many new business people have limited funds but staying safe online is a cost of doing business. Before you decide not to pay for the security these programs can give you stop and think about how much it would cost you to recover from a ransomware hit.

Think before you click

Don’t download anything to your computer from a link that someone sent you unexpectedly. Don’t click on links that friends, workmates, family members or complete strangers send you without first checking with the person who sent you the link.

Don’t open attachments that you weren’t expecting … and even if you were expecting something be cautious about opening it before you know that it is probably safe.

Of course, if the link or attachment came from a complete stranger then delete the email immediately but if you know who it came from check with that person before you open it, download it or click on it.

Emails carrying malicious links and attachments can be made to look as if they came from someone you know so don’t trust them … check first and stay safe.

Backup, backup and backup some more

Backup, backup and backup some more. If the hard drives on your computer hold information that is vital for your business or things of great sentimental value then backup all your files to an external hard drive and then unplug that drive from your computer.

And don’t think that one backup is enough. Set yourself a regular schedule for backing up the files on your computer and stick to that schedule. The more frequent those backups are the less risk you have of losing something important, and the faster you can recover, if you get hit with ransomware.

However, make sure that you don’t leave your backup drive plugged into your computer and don’t plug your backup drive into the computer while it’s locked. Any type of drive can become infected if it is plugged into a machine that has been hit with ransomware.

If you’re not going to pay the ransom then don’t try and unlock the computer yourself. Instead take your computer, and your backup drive, to an expert and let them handle it for you. Yes, that will cost you serious money so think about the alternatives.

More and more hackers are realising that fewer victims will pay the ransom if the hackers don’t remove the encryption so the chances are that, if you pay the ransom, your files will be released. But that’s a decision that only you can make.

The risk of being hit with ransomware is now a fact of life for anyone with a computer but you can reduce your risk level if you just take some simple precautions and accept that those precautions are now necessary if you want to be online.