Consumer Reports Article Raul Glasgow and Short Circuited Computer Services Referenced
By Raul Glasgow, Owner, Shortcircuited Computer Repair Services, Brooklyn, New York
I do info-tech consulting and computer repair. I’m basically the computer guy for a number of dental and medical offices. One day last summer I got up and checked on the server where I keep my website—and the site was just gone. The files were encrypted, and I saw a message appearing in a pop-up window.
This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered ransomware, so I knew what the message was going to say: To get the files back I’d have to pay the hackers in bitcoin, a digital currency.
I started seeing ransomware attacks targeting some of my clients two or three years ago, and since then it’s become more common.
The first time it was a dental office, and they were being told to pay about $2,000 in bitcoin to get their files back. But we were worried they could lose the money if the hackers didn’t actually restore the files—after all, we didn’t know who these guys were. We ended up wiping everything and starting fresh with a new computer. We could do that because everything was backed up.
A few weeks before my own site was hacked, another dental office I work with had its patients’ X-rays encrypted by ransomware, and they had no backups of those files. The ransom was lower this time, about $300 worth of bitcoin, and the client decided to pay up. There was no other good option.
With my own website, I really didn’t want to pay a ransom so I said the hell with it—I’m just going to restore everything from a backup.
That would have been a big job.
But then I saw that one of the major anti-malware companies had a fix for at least some ransomware attacks—as long as you had a few of the files backed up and knew what ransomware software was involved. It wasn’t something a lot of nontechnical people would be able to use, but it worked for me.
From what I’ve seen, antivirus companies are working on the problem, and they’re starting to catch up. But the hackers are introducing even stronger encryption. And it’s not always real hackers, people with skills. Anyone can just go online these days and buy the software they need to start a ransomware business. Instead of dealing drugs, a criminal can get into hacking.
To keep it from happening to you:
57. Back Up Your Data
Use a system that backs up your files automatically. If you’re hit with ransomware, you’ll have the option of restoring the data.
58. Keep Software Updated
Ideally, set your computer and key programs to update automatically
59. Try Haggling . . .
Ransomware crooks are honing their “customer service,” according to Philip Casesa, a strategist at the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. So it’s worth asking for a ransom discount.
60. . . . But Not Right Away
Wait to click on the pop-up until you’ve obtained bitcoin, which can take time. The reason: The criminals will likely impose a time limit before deleting your data—and the clock starts ticking as soon as you click.