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Wyoming Business Tips for April 16-22

April 7, 2017

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Jim Drever, WSBDC regional director and certified cybersecurity specialist

“What is ransomware, and how do I avoid it?” Ken, Saratoga

Ransomware is a computer program that, when installed and run on your computer, will encrypt almost every file on a computer, then give a pop-up warning that you have a certain amount of time to pay the software distributors a ransom to get the password to unlock all personal files.

There are dozens of varieties of ransomware, but they do about the same thing: They hold your data and files for ransom. One insidious version lets you either pay to unlock or infect others; once it is paid, your computer will be unlocked.

To defend yourself, the best method is to back up the computer on a drive that is not continuously connected to the computer -- otherwise, the ransomware also will lock up the files -- using a program that saves incremental versions of your computer.

The reason for incremental backups is because, often, ransomware has an incubation period that the latest backup could contain the malware. If you get ransomware, simply wipe the hard drive and install from a backup.

Last November, San Francisco’s train ticketing system was hit by ransomware; they recovered using backups.

Another piece of advice you probably already know: Use anti-virus/anti-malware. It can see the signatures of some of the known ransomware versions and protect you.

When installing software that you weren’t looking for, don’t install. If you do, keep it updated, especially Flash and Java for your web browser.

Finally, if it is too late, and you get ransomware and don’t want to pay, free decryption tools can sometimes unlock files. These can be found on the No More Ransom Project website.

The WSBDC provides free and confidential cybersecurity advising to business owners.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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