Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that makes your computer or its files unusable unless you pay a fee.
Ransomware is a financially motivated crime – criminals get individuals and organisations to pay by holding their information to ransom.
Use this guidance to learn about how to protect yourself from ransomware.
Tip: Proactively protect yourself from the effects of ransomware by creating regular backups of your important files and storing them offline.
Ransomware is one of the most frequent and damaging types of malware affecting people today. It can affect both individuals and organisations alike, and can impose significant costs – in both recovery and down time. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business, or whether you hold valuable information, the aim is to stop you from accessing the files that matter to you.
Typically, ransomware works by locking up – or encrypting – your files so that they can no longer be used, and some types are even designed to stop your computer from working entirely!
Warning: We recommend that you do not pay the ransom if affected by ransomware. There is no guarantee that paying the ransom will fix your computer, and it could make you vulnerable to further attacks. Restore your files from backup and seek technical advice.
Protect yourself from ransomware
Ransomware infects people’s computers in the same ways as other types of malware – for example, attached to or linked from a malicious email, hiding on malicious websites or pretending to be useful applications on peer-to-peer networks.
The same advice to protect yourself against malware applies to ransomware, but the key way to reduce the impact of a ransomware incident is to create regular backups of your important files.
Take the following steps to significantly reduce your risk of being affected by ransomware and other malware:
- Use antivirus software and automatically download signature updates daily. Learn about anti-virus software.
- Keep all your other software up to date too. Learn about updates.
- Use strong passwords. Learn how to create – and remember – strong passwords.
- Make regular backups of valuable files and maintain offline copies (ie that are not connected to your network). Learn about how to back up files.
- Don’t click on links in emails or messages or open attachments from people or organisations you don’t know. Be especially cautious if the message is very enticing or appealing.
- Disable Microsoft Office macros. (Macros are small programs used to automate simple tasks in Microsoft Office documents but can be used maliciously – visit the Microsoft website for information on disabling macros in your version of Office).
- Use safe behaviour online. Learn about how to use email safely and browse the web safely.
- Stay informed on the latest threats – sign up for the Stay Smart Online Alert Service.
What to do if you’ve paid the ransom
If you’ve given your credit card or account details to pay the ransom, contact your financial institution immediately.