When it comes to technology, a lot of bloggers and writers will push content that can make things seem a lot more complicated than they are. At BigTB, our mission is to democratize access to information and technology. One way we do that is to make complicated technologies and technology issues easy to understand. I’ll make you a deal, if you read through to the end of this article, it should take less than 10 minutes and you should be fully prepared to understand what your risks are with ransomware and what steps you can take to protect yourself from it.

First? What is Ransomware? #ransomware is a type of virus that will get into your computer. When it gets into your computer it will restrict your access to your files and demand a payment (usually to a #bitcoin or #monero address). The claim is that if you pay them, then they will unlock your files. Sometimes they may also claim that they have taken the files, and (insert villain voice) if you ever want to see them again, you’ll have to pay!

How big of a problem is this? That depends on if you do your backups. For those that won’t make it to the end of this article, but want something immediately actionable, #backups, #backups, and even more #backups. Let’s say you went to your work computer and saw that all of your files for the last three years had been encrypted. Would you pay to have it unlocked? If you have #backups, then you don’t need to worry. For the majority of situations, you can simply reinstall the operating system on your computer (do a factory reset), then restore your files from backups, and now the hacker that infected your computer wasted their time. Why was it a waste? Because they put effort into something and were not able to get a reward. If everyone literally had their backups and never paid a ransomware hacker, the problem would be nearly non-existant.

What does the #FBI director Christopher Wray have to say on this matter? He views it as a key area of focus for the FBI. In fact, at a recent budget hearing, Wray stated that he needed an increased budget, partially to address these issues. The FBI reports to have been able to recover funds for people that have paid hackers to get their information back, but it is extremely important to avoid paying the hackers. As with any criminal venture, the more lucrative it is, the more of a problem it will become.

So, do you have 10 minutes to do your backups? That’s all it takes. I would recommend having an external hard drive (or two or three). Automatic backup solutions are tempting, but if you physically connect a hard drive to your computer, then copy over all of your files, and then physically remove the hard drive when the transfer is completed, there is no connection between the internet and your files. Even if your computer becomes infected with all manner of viruses and ransomware attacks, your backup(s) are safely tucked away.

When it comes to information storage, nothing beats #redundancy. For most personal files you may want to have a local copy on a computer, a backup hard drive, and then a cloud service (such as google drive). In a business setting, you may want to also have redundant hard drives (RAID configurations) and separate physical locations (i.e., maybe copies at your home office and also at the office). People lose there information for all sorts of reasons, hackers, hardware failure, fires, water leaks, the list goes on. The more diversification you have of ways your information is stored, the less likely it is you’ll be in a situation where you are lost without your files.