It is always best to do everything you can to stop your computer from getting infected with any malicious software. Taking some simple steps, like having adequate security software (antivirus and anti-malware) installed on your computer, applying OS security patches, not clicking on suspicious email links that you don't recognize and not opening unexpected email attachments, are all sensible precautions that everyone should take.
What to Do If You Find Yourself Infected
Even if you do try to protect yourself from attack, sometimes malicious code can still end up on your computer. If your computer does become a victim of Ransomware (such as Cryptolocker) there are some steps you can take to mitigate the damage.
Ignore the ransom demand
DO NOT even think about paying the ransom demanded. The demand does not come from any legitimate authority and there is no guarantee that if you pay the money you will ever get your files unlocked. If you pay, you are just passing your money into the hands of criminal gangs and encouraging them to continue with their illegal activities.
Remove the Ransomware from your computer
Although Ransomware may appear particularly threatening, it is just another form of malware. There are many companies online that offer malware removal tools, including Microsoft and Bitdefender. Both of these sites offer detailed instructions on how to eliminate the Ransomware from your computer. It is wise to remove the Ransomware as soon as possible. The longer that you leave it on your system the more opportunity you are providing for the malware to spread, both encrypting your files further and potentially spreading to others' computers.
Update your antivirus, anti-malware software and patch your OS
If your current antivirus protection lets the Ransomware get on to your computer, then there is likely a problem with it. It may be corrupted, or perhaps it is not being updated regularly with the latest antivirus definitions. If you are going to properly protect your computer system in the future, it is vital that you have a working antivirus program installed. If your software isn’t up to date, either update it immediately or uninstall it and replace it with a new one that will offer you adequate protection. Once you have the new antivirus software installed it is always a good idea to run a full scan of your system to make sure there are no further problems that need to be dealt with on your computer.
Update your passwords
Once you regain access to your computer it is a sensible precaution to change all of the passwords that you use to access websites. If your anti-virus protection has been breached you have no idea what information may have been gathered from your system. The safest approach is to change all of your passwords and access codes and then monitor your accounts for any indications of suspicious activities.
Always Backup Your Files
Once your system is infected with Ransomware, it is likely that you are going to suffer some damage or loss to your computer files. The best preventative measure you can take is to regularly backup your files on an external system (either other hard drive or in the cloud – or both!), so that if your computer is taken hostage, you have your files in another location. However, if you do find yourself infected, removing the malware quickly and following these simple steps can minimize the damage and reduce the risk of further infection as much as possible.