Ransomware: External Hard Drive File Backup or Cloud Storage?


Example of a ransomware page

When it comes to computer viruses, ransomware is one of the scariest. Ransomware poses a potentially devastating threat to both companies and individual users alike. In this article, we try to answer some of the many questions you may be having:

What does ransomware do?

  • Ransomware is a type of computer virus that holds your computer and its data hostage until you pay the ransom to unlock your files. Simply removing the virus is not a solution, as your personal files will remain encrypted without the password/code. Often these ransom messages will appear to come from the police, the FBI, or other reputable sources, but none of these bodies would ever lock up a PC and encrypt your files. Click here to learn more about ransomware.

How does ransomware spread? 

  • Ransomware started its initial massive spread, through emails, email attachments,  and pop-up ads placed on websites that are not secure. Hackers are able to quickly alter the code of ransomware to make it undetectable by antivirus software that relies on recognizing known variants.

What if ransomware makes it onto your PC?

  • Some variants of ransomware have been “solved” and it’s worth a Google to see if there is a decryption tool available, but most variants of ransomware remain unsolved. In these cases the only way to decrypt the files is to pay the ransom. However, paying up does not guarantee decryption and will almost certainly mark you as a good target for future attack.

What is the best defense against ransomware?

  • Backup all your files. This will create copies of all your important data and documents externally from your computer’s hard drive, where they are safe. This process would allow you to clean your computer of the ransomware virus, delete the encrypted files, and replace them with their copies that you made on your back up.

Options for backing up your files: 

1. External hard drive – the best feature of an external drive is that it stores your files offline, leaving you with a secure backup of all your files.  This is a one time payment, compared to cloud storage, which is often subscription-based.

IMPORTANT: If you’re going to make a backup, run a FixMeStick scan first so you don’t copy malware onto your hard drive.

2. Cloud storage systems practice proper online safety– cloud storage offers the unique benefit of accessing your files anywhere, anytime. Simply log into your cloud storage on any device. Many cloud storage systems also offer shared folders that give you the option to share specific folders with many users. This can be good for collaborative work projects or for family members sharing photographs.

IMPORTANT: Cloud storage systems connect to the internet, therefore always when choosing this method.