How Do I Know if My Machine is Free of Malware?

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How do I find out or know that my computer is free of keyloggers? Would Windows Defender or MalwareBytes find them if there are any, or do you have a referenced article on the topic where I can read about it? Understand that this is the biggest security concern I have about my computer nowadays.

How do you know your computer is free of keyloggers? You don’t.

It’s not the answer most people want to hear, but it’s the true bottom line.

There are a few reasons for it, which I’ll discuss, as well as what you and I need to do in the face of this rather grim reality.

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How Do I Avoid Ransomware?

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How can I prevent this new risk of criminals encrypting files on my hard drive and then demanding a ransom to unlock the data? Is having a router and software firewall enough?

In other words, how do you avoid ransomware?

Let’s look at ransomware – software that holds your computer hostage until you pay up – and how best to protect yourself.

Spoiler alert: you already know the answer.

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Will Ransomware Encrypt Backups?

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I wonder if a backup system that uses an external disk is safe from Ransomware. I have Acronis True Image 2015 – paid version, and do a full backup once a month and an incremental daily. Can Ransomware get to that backup? It is, in reality, just another disk in my system.

The best we can say is … maybe.

It actually depends on a lot of different things, including the type of backup, where it’s stored, and the specific characteristics of the ransomware involved. That’s perhaps the biggest unknown: there are many different types of ransomware, each with different characteristics.

Of course, what to do about this “maybe” also represents a trade-off between getting regular backups and keeping those backups safe.

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How Do I Decrypt Files Encrypted by Ransomware?

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… some of my files are gone, saying they have been encrypted with a public key. Files like my photos and so on. Of course they have a high fee in order for me to get them back. Do you have a solution?

That was a question I received in my morning email from a friend.

And the news is not good, because no, I don’t have a solution; there’s just no good way to decrypt files encrypted by ransomware.

Prevention before the fact is the only guaranteed peace of mind on this one.

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Will Malware Infect the Backups on My Connected Backup Drives as Well?

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You stated elsewhere that typically backup images are not compromised by malware. Is this because the malware works by searching for specific file types and the backup file types aren’t in the list? As I understand it from your articles on encryption, a complete disk could be encrypted rather than only some of the content. Could an external drive being used for backup storage be so encrypted by malware?

Typically, backup images and drives are not affected by malware. I have to say “typically” because things can happen, but it’s just not very common.

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How do I remove ransomware?

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About a week ago, something shut my computer down and now demands $100 to unlock it. How do I unlock or delete this and use my computer? I use Windows Vista.

What you are experiencing is called ransomware.

Ransomware basically holds your computer, your data, or some part of your machine hostage until you pay them money or do whatever it is they ask of you to do.

Following their instructions, paying the ransom, actually may or may not unlock your computer. The creators of ransomware may just extort money out of you and then do nothing. You’ll still be left with an unusable computer.

There are a couple of different things that I strongly recommend you do.

Read moreHow do I remove ransomware?