Q: I believe I may have a solution to ransomware attacks. A few years ago my computer was locked by hackers demanding $300 to release my computer. After trying unsuccessfully a number of times to log on under my user ID, I came up with a workaround. I had created two users. I was able to log on as the other user and do a system restore on a date just preceding the attack. This wiped out the attack and kept me from having to pay the $300.
Granted, I lost everything from the time of that restore going forward, but it was a small price to pay for not having to pay $300 to hackers who probably wouldn’t have released my computer anyway.
— Dick Jacobs
A: Good thinking! But actually, there are different types of ransomware attacks. Your strategy will work with some types and not others.
If the ransomware is designed to simply lock you out of your computer, performing a system restore to an earlier date could work. I say “could work” because there are ways for sophisticated hackers to design malware that prevents system restores.
But system restore — which returns operating system programs to an earlier state, and which must be enabled before any attack — won’t work against ransomware that encrypts your data files. Once those files have been encrypted they can only be decrypted by someone who has the encryption code.
The best protection against ransomware is periodic backups that are stored offline. And remember that “offline” really means offline. Ransomware can encrypt files that you have backed up to cloud storage.
The simplest solution is to subscribe to a cloud storage service that supports versioning. With versioning, previous versions of data files are stored separately and can be restored if your current versions are encrypted by ransomware. If you go this route, you don’t have to remember to back up to an external drive.
The downside? You’ll have to pay for the versioning capability. The cost varies among providers, but expect to pay around $100 per year.
Q: For years I was getting unwanted pop-ups from my Google web browser in the lower-right-hand corner, and it was very annoying. I had to manually delete each pop-up and as soon as one was deleted, another would pop up in its place. Many times, I tried going into my Google settings bar and enter the pop-ups as unwanted and nothing worked.
In frustration about a month ago, I removed the Google browser. Guess what? No popups. I have now reinstalled it and still no pop-ups.
I actually have three browsers on my Windows 8.1 ASUS computer: Microsoft, Google and Firefox. I use Microsoft for its favorites, I use Google for YouTube videos and Firefox for my email correspondence.
— Harold Nyberg
A: Pop-ups like you encountered are virtually always the result either of malware on your computer or an extension or add-on in your browser.
Since add-ons often have unexpected side effects, I try to keep the number of add-ons I install to a minimum. Still, some sites require applets like ActiveX or Adobe Flash to run properly. Unfortunately, that software can also bog down browsing and can be vulnerable.
My solution? Like you, I have several browsers installed on my computer. I keep one browser clean of add-ons and I use that for most of my internet browsing. I have another browser with Flash installed that I use for sites that require Flash. And so on …
My guess is that when you reinstalled Google Chrome you did so without whichever add-on that was responsible for those popups.