Over the 4th of July weekend, hackers allegedly infected thousands of victims in 17 countries with ransomware by attacking a single software product. The REvil gang is now demanding $70 million for a “universal unlocking tool” to release the locked files. One expert suggests that the actual number of PCs affected could total a million or more.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts your files or stops you from using your computer until you pay money (a ransom) for them to be unlocked. If your computer is connected to a network the ransomware may also spread to other computers or storage devices on the network.
Some of the ways your PC can get infected by ransomware include:
- Visiting unsafe, suspicious, or fake websites.
- Opening file attachments that you weren’t expecting or from people you don’t know.
- Opening malicious or bad links in emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts, or in instant messenger or SMS chats.
You can often recognize a fake email and webpage because they have bad spelling, or just look unusual. Look out for strange spellings of company names (like "PayePal" instead of "PayPal") or unusual spaces, symbols, or punctuation (like "iTunesCustomer Service" instead of "iTunes Customer Service").
Ransomware can target any PC—whether it’s a home computer, PCs on an company network, or servers used by a government agency.
How can I help keep my PC secure?
- Make sure your PC is up to date with the latest version of Windows and all the latest patches.
- Be sure Windows Security is turned on to help protect you from viruses and malware (or Windows Defender Security Center in previous versions of Windows 10).
- In Windows 10 turn on Controlled Folder Access to protect your important local folders from unauthorized programs like ransomware or other malware.
- If you use Microsoft 365, get ransomware detection and recovery with Microsoft 365 advanced protection.
- Back up your files with File History if it hasn’t already been turned on by your PC’s manufacturer.
- Store important personal files on Microsoft OneDrive. OneDrive includes built in ransomware detection and recovery as well as file versioning so you can restore a previous version of a file. At work, store important files on a network resource, where they will automatically get backed up daily.
- Use a secure, modern, browser such as Microsoft Edge.
- Restart your computer periodically, at least once a week. This can help ensure the applications and operating system are up-to-date and helps your system run better.