According to Microsoft, ransomware prevents a PC from being accessed from the user until the user pays a “ransom.”
"It's a very large message; you can't miss it," said Metro State University Computer Science Professor Steve Beaty. "It says, 'we've taken over your computer and here are the Bitcoin accounts to send money to.'"
Beaty said first, you should make sure you've updated to the latest Windows software.
"The most recent updates will fix the most recent, we found, exploits," Beaty said.
You should also avoid:
Visiting unsafe, suspicious, or fake websites.
Opening emails and email attachments from people you don’t know, or that you weren’t expecting.
Clicking on malicious or bad links in emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts, instant messenger chats, like Skype.
Additionally, Microsoft offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to malicious ransomware:
Don’t click on a link on a webpage, in an email, or in a chat message unless you absolutely trust the page or sender.
If you’re ever unsure – don’t click it!
Often fake emails and webpages have bad spelling, or just look unusual. Look out for strange spellings of company names (like “PayePal” instead of “PayPal”) or unusual spaces, symbols, or punctuation (like “iTunesCustomer Service” instead of “iTunes Customer Service”).
And finally, back up your important files remotely.
"We like at least some of the backups to be what we call, offline, so that when your machine is infected, it can’t also erase or encrypt your backups," Beaty said.
But what if your computer has been infected? Microsoft has published a guide on how to remove ransomware from your computer.