There’s a new form of ransomware—apparently built by amateurs—that takes your money but deletes your personal files anyway. Security research firm Talos recently published a blog post about a new form of malware dubbed Ranscam.
This ransomware follows the basic premise of previous variants. It claims your files have been encrypted, and thus inaccessible to you, then threatens to delete all your files if you don’t pay up. Ransomware's scary premise prompts many people to fork over the dough in order to save their photos and other content.
Ranscam ignores conventional ransomware behavior, however, and deletes the victim’s content long before they have a chance to pay up. In typical ransomware scams the user is usually prompted to pay up in Bitcoin, which is harder to trace than other forms of payment. After they pay it, and the transaction is verified, the files are decrypted and the ransomware deletes itself.
The Ranscam authors, however, don’t bother with all those technical details and just hope for the easy payout without regard to the user’s files.
The impact on you at home: The good news is Ranscam is still in its early days and doesn’t appear to be widespread. Nevertheless, it’s an important reminder that you shouldn’t trust that you’ll get your stuff back if you end up paying a ransomware scam.
How to guard against ransomware
Ransomware can find its way onto your PC just like any other form of malware, such as through an email attachment or a malicious website. For that reason, your best line of defense is a solid antivirus and real-time malware protection program. PCWorld's guide to assembling the ultimate free security suite can help on that front.
Beyond that, however, you’ve got to back up your files regularly. That way if you everdo get hit with ransomware you still have your files safely stashed away in a backup. The key, however, is to make sure you have a backup utility that uses versioning where files are saved at different points since its creation, so that if your backup files are also encrypted, you can rollback to versions from a few days previous, when everything was fine.
Check out Lincoln Spector’s earlier discussion on the ins and outs of back-ups that protect against ransomware.
And don’t forget to make sure you have a double backup plan that includes a local backup to an external hard drive, as well as a cloud-based backup service such as Backblaze or Carbonite.