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What to do if you get hit by ransomware

Ransomware RemovalIt’s a nightmare scenario, and it happened to small business owner Paul Eichen. Not once, but twice.

Eichen runs a small seven-person toy company called Rokenbok that was hit a couple of years ago with what is called a “denial of service” cyberattack, according to The New York Times.  A denial of service attack is where the bad guys try to flood the targeted computer with excessive requests in order to overload it and prevent real requests from being processed. “I sweated that one,” he told a reporter.

Earlier this year, Rokenbok was hit again – this time by ransomware. According the Times story, “No Business Too Small To Be Hacked,” Rokenbok lost thousands of dollars in sales in just two days.

So what did Mr. Eichen do? First, he contacted the authorities. (The FBI is the correct route in matters like these.) Next, he decided not to pay the ransom. But he didn’t have a reliable data backup to count on. Instead, the Rokenbok team rebuilt key computer systems. That took almost a week.

Have you asked yourself, “What would I do if I were hit by ransomware?” These days, it’s a smart question to ask. Here are some options to choose from if you ever fall victim to a ransomware attack:

1. Attempt to remove the malware

One of the great things about Microsoft Windows is that it has a function called “System Restore” which does exactly what it sounds like: It can restore your system to a time before the infection.

To use this, shut down your computer—and remove it from the rest of your network—before rebooting it. Once you see something pop onto the screen, repeatedly tap the F8 key. You’ll then see an option to run the computer in “Safe Mode.” Select this option and hit enter. Next, select “Repair Your Computer” and hit enter. This will take you to the “System Restore” screen where you can hopefully find a restore point that predates the attack.

2. Use a virus scanner

If the system restore doesn’t work for any reason, you can attempt to clean your system using a virus scanner from a USB drive or other bootable disk.

3. Recover your encrypted files

The easiest and best way to do this is by having previously-installed and reliable computer backup system.

4. Hire an expert

If your do-it-yourself efforts are to no avail, then it would behoove you to call in an online security expert to help you clean your computer and recover whatever files you can.

There is one another option, of course. You could pay cybercriminals, and you wouldn’t be alone. Tens of thousands of dollars have been paid out to ransomware distributors by companies large and small who consider it the quickest and easiest way to recover their data.

But the FBI says they are wrong—and they have some good reasons for discouraging the payment of ransom.

“Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—we’ve seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom. Paying a ransom emboldens current cybercriminals to target more organizations, and offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And finally, by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.”

Hopefully, this article will service as a reminder that paying cybercriminals is no guarantee you’ll get your data back. At the end of the day, a solid antivirus protection system and a reliable data backup and protection plan is the best way to protect yourself against ransomware.

For even more ransomware news and information, visit the FightRansomware.com homepage today!

Steve StraussAbout Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is often called the “most popular small business columnist in America.” The senior USA TODAY small business columnist, Steve is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, ABC News, Yahoo, and many other outlets. He is a best-selling author of 17 books, including The Small Business Bible and is a recovering attorney who regularly speaks around the country and around the world about entrepreneurship and global trends in business. Steve is also often asked to be the small business spokesperson for companies like Microsoft, Bank of America, Dun & Bradstreet, Staples, and so on. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Small Business Connection, and sits on the board of the World Entrepreneurship Forum and the national advisory boards of SCORE and P&G Pro. Whether it be blogs, video, live streaming, e-books or what have you, his company, The Strauss Group, creates cutting-edge business content for everyone from Fortune 50 companies to small chambers of commerce. His latest venture is the tech startup, TheSelfEmployed.

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