You’re writing and all of a sudden your computer freezes and a message appears demanding money, in the form of bitcoin, in order to keep all of your documents from being deleted or from staying in permanent gobbledygook. Is this a nightmare? No, it’s ransomware, the fastest growing form of internet crime, and one which effects those who make their living from their writing particularly hard.

While the ransoms for entire systems of computers (like hospitals or governmental organizations) is typically in the thousands of dollars, most individuals are asked to pay somewhere around $500; still, that cost — on top of an already stretched budget– could put any working writer down and out for rent that month.

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) exhorts people not to give into these criminals demands. After all, while your files may become unencrypted, but that doesn’t mean the infection has been removed from your system.

How can you protect yourself from ransomware? Well, treat this major issue as you might flu season. Wash your hands– or rather, run updates from your internet security application. Next, minimize your contact with possible infections by not clicking on suspicious links (though some ransomware is contactable without these links now). Finally, stock up on necessary supplies so that if you do get “sick”, you’re not in trouble. Run a back up to a disk NOT connected to your internet server. As stated on the NPR program On Point, back ups connected through an internet server are also at risk to become infected themselves. Invest in an external hard drive and make it a routine to back up files weekly.

Don’t let ransomware be the downfall of your creative project. If your work is reading like gobbledygook, make sure it’s because you didn’t have enough coffee, not because you didn’t prepare yourself for a cyber attack.

Plus, isn’t it just a good idea to save your work frequently?