When this happens you have three choices: restore the data if possible, pay the ransom, or walk away from your data. It has been reported that for those who chose to pay the ransom, the decryption key does work and their data is restored.
The recent WannaCry variant garnered a lot of press, but you should view it as a wake up call because I fear more variants are coming. And it is not inconceivable that Macs will be attacked too.
So what should you do to protect yourself?
- Make sure your computer has all critical and important operating system updates installed and that the operating system version is still actively supported.
- In addition to online backups, make sure you have offline backups as well. If you use cloud storage, make sure the cloud vendor provides offline backups of your data
- Create periodic backup system images, ideally with some offline
- Install a quality antivirus product that claims to block ransomware
But most of all, be very vigilant in terms of opening email attachments. Even if you receive an email attachment from someone you know, contact him or her to confirm they really sent the attachment before opening it.