Recently, the Zookbinders crew had a security meeting, teaching us about online security threats and how both companies and home computers can be affected and what we can do about it.

I went in thinking…. I’m not gonna ever get scammed, I’m WAY too smart for that. 😉 But that’s the issue. The scammers aren’t just sending emails anymore saying a distant relative has lottery earnings, just send a money order for $5,000 to get your $10mil. Obviously, we aren’t falling for that old trick! No, these scammers aren’t the sly-speaking, friendly worded emails of yesteryear. These scammers only care that you understand the threat and the date the money is due. No promises of lottery winnings; just cold, hardened criminals.

Below is the #1 scam going on and how to recover from the damage of this attack.

#1 Ransomware (when your photos get held hostage)

Right now, one of the scariest threats out there, especially for pro photographers, is when Ransomware enters your computer. These hackers go in and put a lock your computer or on all of your files, then email you demanding you pay to get them unlocked. You can call the police, the FBI, or the Navy Seals, chances are unless you pay, you’re not getting access.

It’s scary to think that this is happening and there is nearly nothing you can do if it happens. An article was posted over at explaining where it comes from:

“Ransomware comes from the usual culprits: rogue websites, phishing scams, trick attachments and bad software. All the things we’ve come to expect from viruses, Trojans, and malware. But the latest versions can also compromise genuine advertising causing another path to infection. And because technology evolves so rapidly, it’s almost impossible for law enforcement and security professionals to keep up.”

And with that, we start think, what can we do? What would we do?

Photographer Jason Bogacz shared his story with of the time his computer became infected by ransomware.

“I had been looking at an entertainment website… after I left the page I noticed some functions of Internet Explorer weren’t functioning properly. Pages wouldn’t load, that type of thing. I wasn’t concerned at first, figured there were just some issues with those pages due to heavy traffic and all would be better soon.

That’s when I noticed that I was also having issues opening certain files, getting pop-ups telling me the files were corrupt or weren’t able to be opened.

And then the final hit came when I was essentially locked out. I Googled the issues and that’s when I found out I had been infected with Ransomware.”

Again, scary stuff! But Jason was smart and had a way to recover his files. First, he did a complete system restore to get the computer working again. Had Jason not backed up all his work on an external hard drive, all would have been lost. For Jason, he got lucky but not everyone will. In order to ensure that you too can recover from a situation like this, make sure to back up your files to an external hard drive everyday and remember to UNPLUG the drive from your computer after the backup. If it’s still connected to your computer, Ransomware can also access those files