Skip to main content

Video: What you need to know about ransomware and protecting your stuff

WannaCry isn't the only one out there, so it's best to be prepared.

Last weekend the world was hit with a massive cyber attack. It held more than 300,000 computers hostage as hackers demanded a ransom.

But ransomware is nothing new, and just because you weren't hit with WannaCry doesn't mean you've got nothing to worry about. So GoMN spoke with some computer experts to get a broader understanding of how ransomware works.

History of ransomware

Best Buy Geek Squad Agent Derek Meister tells GoMN ransomware – or malicious software used to extort money from computer users – dates back to 1989.

The very first malware of this kind was called AIDS Trojan, and it would hide files and demand a $189 "renewal fee." However, Meister explains AIDS Trojan was a pretty simple form that could be easily reversed.

It wasn't until around 2005 that ransomware started encrypting and really messing up files. So victims would depend on the hackers to help them get their stuff back – but of course, hackers wanted money first.

By 2016, there were about 700,000 ransomware attacks in a year. As more devices are connected to the internet, Meister says he expects that number to grow.

Who it affects

While the most recent attack with WannaCry only affected Windows computers that hadn't been updated, other forms of the malware target other devices.

It can happen to PCs, Macs, phones and tablets.

"If you use any type of device that's connected to the Internet, it's never safe to assume that you're automatically 'safe,'" Meister explains.

Ransomware vs. other malware

There are a whole bunch of different types of malware out there. Meister notes other forms, like adware (which makes certain ads pop up) and spyware (which steals your information), are much more common than ransomware.

While there might be hundreds of thousands of cases of ransomware a year, there are millions of other malware cases. So relatively speaking, ransomware is not very common.

However, the immediate effects of ransomware on computers can be much more devastating because you – or entire businesses – may be completely locked out.

Meister adds that ransomware hackers usually can't see or steal your information. That's not their goal. They just want you to pay them a ransom fee. They don't care about your stuff.

Spyware hackers, on the other hand, want to collect important information like credit card numbers, birthdates, etc.

How to protect yourself

Even if you get hit with ransomware and pay the ransom (which you're not supposed to do), there's no guarantee you'll get your stuff back.

As Agent Meister notes, hackers aren't always nice. They might not even know how to fix what they started, so it's best to be prepared.

First, backup all of your stuff – either on the internet or with an external drive. But if you use a drive, don't leave it plugged in because it could get infected too.

Next, keep everything up-to-date. Don't skip software updates.

And always watch what you're downloading and who you're sharing files with. Those are all ways malware can spread.

For more information on ransomware, check out Best Buy's FAQ.

Next Up

D'Angelo Russell

D'Lo's late takeover helps Timberwolves win double-OT thriller

Russell caught fire to help the Timberwolves get back to .500.

Gopher Football

Gophers suffocate Badgers, reclaim Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota picked up its first home win over the Badgers since 2003.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Boy, 6, run over after falling off trailer in Meeker Co. tree farm accident

He was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with internal injuries.

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.03.06 AM

Charges: Man shot Uber Eats driver making a delivery in Cottage Grove

Otis Donnell Shipp was charged with second-degree attempted murder after turning himself in on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.36.14 AM

Waterfront hotel in Duluth sustains damage in kitchen fire

Authorities estimate the damage at around $75,000.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.15.18 AM

Large groups of thieves target 2 Twin Cities Best Buys on Black Friday

It bears similarities to the flash-mob style thefts seen recently in California.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.


What to know about this global cyber attack

Researchers think it could be a malware that's been sold on the dark web's black market.

Video: Everything you need to know about Minnesota's measles outbreak

What exactly is measles, how can you protect yourself, and why is everyone talking about it?

'Accidental hero' slowed the global ransomware attack – but it might not be over

The malware locks up your computer and threatens to wipe your files, unless you pay $300 in bitcoin.

Anyone can see your personal info on this website and it's creeping people out

Anyone can search your name to find your age, address, family members, etc.

How safe from a ransomware attack are Minnesota's government computers?

WannaCry ransomware has been detected across more than 200,000 computers in 100-plus countries. So how protected is Minnesota?

Do you know when Uber is tracking your location?

We know apps collect data about us. But how much, and how is it being used?