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Less than half of ransomware victims get their files back

Data from victims of ransomware shows that paying criminals is no guarantee of releasing your files from the malware trap

Petya ransomware attack warning

There is little honour among thieves, as the latest data on cyber security reaffirms that paying a cybercriminal to fix your PC is only effective half the time.

Ransomware crippled the NHS and hundreds of other organisations worldwide last year, locking users out of computers, encrypting files and causing untold misery to thousands. This type malware offers users hope of a way out, promising their files will be unharmed if money is paid in a timely fashion. But can you really trust a crook to honour their word?

The short answer is ‘no’. The latest data from CyberEdge, which surveyed 1,176 businesses worldwide that had fallen victim to ransomware in 2017, finds that half of businesses that paid for their lost data to be unlocked did not regain access to their files, losing them permanently.

The other half paid the ransom and were able to unlock their files again.

CyberEye data

What’s more, CyberEye’s survey points towards more cyber-savvy businesses ignoring ransomware altogether and recovering their data through other means. More than half of businesses that fell victim to ransomware chose not to pay any money at all and recovered their data, while 8% refused to pay and ended up losing data. But you don’t need to be an IT expert to protect yourself. See below for Which? guidance on dealing with ransomware and taking precautions that should keep your data safe.

Our top-rated antivirus packages are put through a gauntlet of cyber attacks that only the very best can survive.

How to prepare for ransomware

Almost all data loss can be completely avoided by running continuous backup software that keeps all your files synchronised with an online service. Take a look at our Best Buy backup service reviews to find out which one is best for your needs.

Similarly, keeping an offline backup is as simple as connecting a USB hard drive to your PC on a regular basis and copying files over. No complicated programs, no paid-for software: simply copying your files frequently means you’re unlikely to need to pay the fee for unlocking your computer.

How to deal with ransomware

Our advice is to never pay the fee. Not only will your money end up in the hands of criminals, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back, as the data above shows. Plus, you may just be exposing your bank details to the attackers.

The first step you should take is to disconnect your computer from the internet and use a friend or family member’s PC to download a recovery tool, and put that on a USB drive. Our guide to ransomware removal takes you through the rest of the steps for getting your data back.

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