Ransomware: How to Protect yourself & your Business

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malicious software that limits or completely blocks a user from accessing or making use of their personal files, system or computer. This can be done in many ways and forms, which vary between different types of ransomware found all around the globe. In some instances, your system’s screen will lock itself, rendering it completely useless. In others, all of your sensitive and personal files that were on the computer will become encrypted and become inaccessible.

You will be given an option to pay a ransom fee in return for control over your computer and files. More modern ransomware, known as crypto-ransomware, encrypts certain file types on the infected systems and forces the owner to have to pay an excessively large fee or ransom to obtain a decryption key which will unlock all of your files.

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What can you do to protect yourself from ransomware? Here are some tips to stay one step ahead of those looking to greatly inconvenience you.

Keep your software updated

Security experts believe that most forms of malware that are activated are believed to be getting into our systems via emails attachments. After the software has been downloaded, the malicious code is then able to travel easily to a broader network of computers that are either linked via the Windows file-sharing system or via the internet itself. There are many variations and breeds of malware, so be sure to regularly update your software on all devices to always have the latest security enhancements against the always-improving malware attacks.

Install quality anti-virus software

In addition to the previous advice of keeping your operating systems (Microsoft Windows) up to date, good antivirus software is of critical importance too. It can detect and prevent malware from infecting your computers before it is activated. Many reputable antivirus programmes have been capable of detecting and preventing ransomware from taking effect when they are still dormant on your computer. The same principle applies with anti-virus as it does to operating system software and security, be sure to keep it up to date so it can continue to keep blocking the latest released versions of malware and ransomware.

Be wary of suspicious emails and pop-ups

A good habit to learn is how to distinguish between a real email and a fishy or dodgy-looking email. First of all, look for any obvious grammatical errors or obvious typing errors in the body of the email. Be sure to look carefully at the sender’s email address, to make sure that it is being sent from a legitimate address. Remember that emails from your bank or internet service provider will never ask you for sensitive information like passwords or security numbers. With regards to the pop-ups, be wary and make sure you do not click on any form of pop-ups.

Create backups of your data

In the event that a hacker is able to hijack your computer and take control, you could rescue all of your files by backing up your data and storing it offline, on a physical hard drive. To be as safe as humanly possible, always keep a copy of all of your data as a backup, make sure that it is always up to date. Be sure to keep this hard drive unplugged from your computer, so if your computer does get infected, there is no chance of losing your data a second time around.

What to do if already infected?

If you have become a victim of ransomware, the first thing you should do is disconnect your computer from the internet. This is to stop the malicious software from distributing itself and infecting other machines over the network. You can then report it to law enforcement and seek the help of a technology professional who specialises on recovering data to see what your viable options can be. Don’t lose hope, as there might be a way to help. It is never advised to pay the ransomware because there is no way to be sure that you will ever get your files back. You would also be fueling a vicious cycle because if you pay the ransom, some of that money is going to return back into more research on how to make the next ransomware attack even stronger and harder to avoid. So you would essentially be creating a more powerful tool that the hackers could use to attack more people, just like you.

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