Question Of The Week
Question: "On October 19, 2014, in an episode of The Good Wife ('Shiny Objects'), a law firm's computers are taken over by something they called ransomware. The law firm was supposed to pay $50,000 to unlock their files. They paid the money but the computers were still locked up. Does ransomware really exist? If it ever happens on my computer, should I pay the money for the encryption key?"
Answer: The picture above is a screen shot from the TV episode to which our customer referred. Indeed, ransomware does exist and it works pretty much as portrayed during Shiny Objects.
The idea is simple: malware infects a computer and locks up your computer. The window will tell you that your files are encrypted and you can no longer access them unless you pay a certain amount of money (Often $300 or more). The window will claim that if you pay the money within the allotted time, you'll receive an unlock key and all will be well.
First and foremost, don't ever pay the money. In some cases, your files aren't affected at all, you just can't reach them. In other cases, they are encrypted and you will never access them again because the code they send, if you pay, almost never unlocks the files.
If this happens, it's time to call us. Your computer will most likely have to come to the shop. If the files aren't encrypted, we should be able to regain access to them.
If the files are encrypted, you need to recover your files from an online backup source. Please note: if you use an external backup drive (we never recommend that) and it was plugged in during the malware attack which locked your computer, those files will most likely be lost, also. So, all your files - original and backed up - will be gone.
How can you prevent this from happening? First and foremost, use an anti-virus which guards against this kind of malware attack. Right now, we are recommending Vipre. Granted, it's not a free program but it's worth every penny, in our opinion. You can try it for 30 days (for free) by clicking on this banner: (Remember, you should only run one anti-virus at a time.)
2) Use online backup. If you aren't doing that already, we suggest you start today:
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to protect your data files. We've actually had a couple of customers whose computers were infected with ransomware. In one case, all files were fine, just hidden. But, the other customer lost everything and had no online backup. Don't give hackers a chance to destroy your personal pictures, documents, music, etc. Take the steps we suggest today!