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General Security Practices
Ransomware is a type of malware. It infects your computer like other types of malware. This particular type of malware also takes over your files. It encrypts (scrambles) the files on your computer and any connected network drives making them unreadable you. The ransomware then pops up a window with instructions on how to pay the criminals money (ransom) to decrypt the files for you. Sometimes, if you pay the ransom, they will decrypt the files. Other times, they just keep asking for more money. It usually starts with $200 - $500 dollars but can be in the thousands.
Like all malware, ransomware is spread through malicious email attachments or by the user visiting an infected website where it is downloaded and installed. In some instances, users are directed to these sites by fake ads or links on social media. Ransomware is often not seen as malicious software by anti-virus programs as the developers are constantly modifying it.
There are some signs your system is infected even if you do not get a popup box. Your user files will have different file extensions. Examples might include: .crypto, _crypt, .toxcrypt, .magic, .SUPERCRYPT, .locky. You may also find a new text file on your computer with instructions on how to pay the ransom.
There are some things you can do to protect your computer and files.
Backup your files
- At UMSL, the My Documents folder on your desktop is stored on a network drive (K:\ drive). That drive is backed up daily to help protect you.
- You can also manually copy files files to a USB drive that you store remotely or to your google drive provided by the University.
- A good backup of your files is the best protection against ransomware.
Don’t enable macros in documents you receive via email
- Microsoft turned off macro auto run several versions ago as a security measure, but you can verify this by checking the settings in your version of Office.
Don’t open attachments in email that you are not expecting
- If you are not expecting a FedEx package, don’t open an attachment in an email saying you have one.
- If you have questions about an email, send it to us at abuse@UMSL.edu
Keep your computer’s operating system patched and any programs like Office and Adobe Acrobat up-to-date.
If you believe your system has malware, we recommend you turn your computer off and contact the Technology Support Center at 314-516-6034.