Hot on the heels of the WannaCry ransomware attack that devastated NHS computers last month, security experts are now warning of a new cyber threat to global computers, called Petya.
Affected companies across Europe have already reported severe security issues, and UK consumers and businesses are being warned to avoid suspicious emails from unknown sources, particularly any containing unusual links or attachments.
Stay ahead of virus scams: read our reviews of the best antivirus software.
How ransomware works
Ransomware is a type of virus that can affect computers, tablets, or even smartphones. It locks the screen, warning the user that if they don’t pay a ransom, then they’ll lose access to their device and the files on it.
The worst type of ransomware, including Petya and last month’s WannaCry attack, will scramble a user’s files with an encryption. The scammer behind the virus then extorts money from victims desperate to get their files back.
Pay up, and you’re handing money to a criminal – and there’s no guarantee that paying will indeed release your file. Fail to pay, and you run the risk of losing precious photos or valued documents.
Protect yourself from Petya
To stay ahead of this latest ransomware scare, be sure to avoid suspicious emails from unknown sources. Most email services will filter such spam into your junk folder, but in case anything gets into your main inbox, practice some common sense and caution.
What to look out for:
- Emails from unknown sources
- Suspicious attachments
- Links to unusual addresses
- Non-official wording or poor grammar in emails claiming to be from an official company or bank
- Missing email subject headers
The best security measure you can use is up-to-date security software, plus backups of your key files, kept somewhere away from your computer. If the worst happened and your PC was infected with a ransomware scam such as Petya or WannaCry, then a backup of your main files on an external hard drive will ensure you don’t lose anything vital.
Can you remove ransomware?
Nasty as it is, ransomware is ultimately just a computer virus. Security software ought to catch it and remove it. But, when new viruses emerge, there can be a brief delay before antivirus developers update their arsenals to deal with breaking threats.
Even if your PC is locked by a ransomware virus, there are ways to run a scan and remove a virus. See our step-by-step guide on how to remove ransomware from a computer.
If you can’t budge a virus from your system, it may be best to take your computer to an expert to see if they can recover your system. Which? Trusted Traders lists local computer repair firms that have been vetted by Which?. Head to Which? Trusted Traders to find recommended PC repair services in your area.