Imagine losing all the files on your computer and being told you must pay to recover them. Ransom­ware is real, but here’s how you can out­smart it.

What does ransomware do?

Crypto-ransom­ware encrypts the files on your computer so that you can’t access them without a decryption key. In exchange for the decryption key, a ransom fee is demanded, which is usually around $300 to $500 per computer. Payment is often demanded in Bit­coins, a virtual currency that is difficult to trace.

How can ransomware infect your computer?

You may encounter ransom­ware in various ways: by opening a malicious email attachment, visiting a compromised or malicous web­site, or clicking on a compromised ad. You may not even realize you’re being infected — until your files are locked up, of course.

How can you get your files back?

Nobody wants to have to pay the ransom. Paying may be one way to regain control of your computer and data, but there are also cases of victims paying and still not regaining control of their files. The best remediation begins before you ever get hit, by taking regular backups. That way, if you do get attacked, you can relax and restore from backups.

What if I haven't taken backups?

If your files have been hijacked and you don’t have backups, it’s worth checking if there is a decryption tool for the ransom­ware you’ve been hit with. You can also share your situation on a help forum like Bleeping Computer, where there are threads to help with many families of ransom­ware. We also recommend that you report the crime to the relevant authorities, typically the police.

5 ways to avoid becoming a victim of ransomware

Make sure you’re running a robust security solution that covers all your devices (PCs, Macs, smart­phones, and tablets). F‑Secure SAFE protects against all known ransom­ware threats, and it can block brand new zero-day threats as well.

Take regular backups of your data. Store them offline so they can’t get infected, and test them from time to time to make sure they really work.

Keep the soft­ware on all your devices up to date to prevent the exploitation of security flaws in outdated soft­ware. For help with this, consider using a tool that identifies old soft­ware versions and suggests updates.

Be skeptical of emailed links and attachments. Be aware that criminals spoof the emails of big brands such as Amazon or FedEx. Type links into your browser rather than clicking from the email. Be extra careful with attachments requesting you to enable or allow some­thing — macros, editing, content, etc.

Limit the use of browser plugins. Disable commonly exploited ones such as Flash Player and Silver­light when you’re not using them. You can do this through your web browser under the plugin settings.

Try F‑Secure SAFE for free

  • Free trial for 30 days and 3 devices
  • The trial period does not obligate you to buy the product
  • Using the product for the trial period does not require you to provide any credit card or banking details

Technical details

Supported platforms

Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8.1, Windows 10, macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) or later, iOS 11 or later, Android 5.0 or later. ARM-based tablets are not supported.

Available languages

čeština, dansk, Deutsch, eesti, English, español, español latinoamericano, français, français canadien, italiano, lietuvių, magyar, Nederlands, norsk, polski, português, português brasileiro, română, slovenščina, suomi, svenska, tiếng Vit, Türkçe, български, ελληνικά, русский, 日本語, 简体中文, 繁體中文 (香港), 繁體中文 (台灣)