How to Protect Yourself from Ransomware and Online Scams
The need to protect yourself from online scams is now an unavoidable reality. According to the FBI’s 2018 Internet Crime Report, Internet fraud cost consumers $7.45 billion from 2014 to 2018.
Fraud includes non-delivery of orders in online shopping, identity theft, credit card fraud and DoS/DDoS attacks. Other threats include several types of ransomware, malware, scareware, viruses and several other categories of crime.
I’ve been exposed to ransomware twice so far, and I’ve learned a lot from the experiences of a friend who was hit and how to treat it. Based on my experiences, I’ve put together a checklist of how to get rid of ransomware and how to stop all kinds of online scams.
My Experience with Ransomware
Ransomware is scary when a window pops up in the middle of the screen saying “Your computer is locked” or “All files are encrypted”. The only way to get things back the way they were is to either pay the price or buy special software that may not work .
Should I pay a ransom? Perhaps not. If the amount is relatively small, you may be tempted to pay, but expect the best. The perpetrator may have no intention of sending an encryption code or software program to decrypt the encrypted file. Even if the perpetrator strictly keeps his promise, there is a risk of being registered on the “hogu” list. This allows more attackers to visit.
The incident in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, shows how difficult it is to respond to a ransomware attack. The city’s computer systems were infected with SamSam ransomware. The attackers demanded a Bitcoin payment of about $50,000, but the payment portal became inaccessible and there was no way to pay the ransom.
The total cost of the restoration is unknown, but estimates based on information obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) indicate that more than $17 million has been prepared. Cybersecurity firm Symantec said the Samsam malware had infected 67 other organizations.
How I Removed Ransomware
When I first received the ransomware that asked me to pay $300, I tried to fix it myself. I took the PC offline, then cleared the browser history and cleared all cookies. I went to Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a program, sorted the programs by installation date, and then uninstalled programs that had been installed for the entire week.
Next, I used Norton Utilities to clean my system, scan for viruses, and remove all threatening and unnecessary files. Last time I rebooted the system, my files were spared from corruption.
The second time I got the ransomware message, they asked for $400. I tried the same procedure as before, but to no effect.
I decided to try a system restore. Windows functions allow you to revert your system to an earlier point in time. This feature can be useful if you are experiencing other problems installing software or freezing your PC. Here’s how it works: 1. Type recovery
in the Control Panel search box . 2. Select Restore and then click the System Restore button. 3. Click Next in the Restore System Files and Restore Settings box .
4. Select a restore point/date from the list of results. If only one date appears , click the checkbox next to the Show More Restore Points prompt and select the desired date.
5. Then, select the Scan Affected Programs button, and Windows will start scanning your system. If Windows finds the affected programs, they are listed in the panel below.
6. When the scan is complete, click Next, and a window will ask you to confirm your restore point (Your Restore Point) . 7. Click the Finish button to
have Windows reset the system to the restore point/date displayed in this dialog box . System Restore will not delete photos, music, videos or documents, but will remove files installed after the restore point/date. While this process worked for me, most security experts do not recommend using System Restore to remove ransomware. Instead, we recommend that you completely reformat or clean your hard drive and reinstall everything from scratch.
A friend of mine received a ransomware called “FBI Pornography”, and since there were no files on his system that could be prosecuted, he tried to delete the ransomware. He failed and paid a tech support group to fix the problem. This tech support group successfully retrieved all files, but wiped the system and reinstalled everything.
How to protect yourself from online scams
Prevention is the best way to beat all forms of online scams. Here’s what you need to do now to prevent future attacks:
1. Back up your files daily. This paper has recommendations for online backups and Windows backups , and Windows backups should be performed as independent drives that are not on the network. Portable hard drives are now very economical. The 8TB external portable hard drive is available for $139. You’ll have enough free space to back up two desktops, laptops and tablets.
2. Never access the Internet without anti-virus and anti-malware software on your system. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to protect your data. Many antivirus programs are free, shareware, and subscription-based at very affordable prices. Norton Utilities is available for multiple PCs for as low as $19.99 per year, and Microsoft’s Windows Defender is free. Many ISPs, including Comcast, provide free antivirus software (in Korea, most antivirus software, including AhnLab, have a free version. Editor’s note).
3. Always install security updates for both the operating system and software programs.
4. Use vague passwords that have nothing to do with special dates, family and pet names, or likes.
5. Restrict sharing and management rights and limit write rights.
6. Sign up for fraud alert websites, including the AARP Fraud Watch Network, the International Fraud Information Center (fraud.org), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scam Alerts page.