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Do This Now To Protect Yourself From Ransomware
Dated: November 18 2021
Ransomware is malware that infects computers and encrypts files or locks the operating system until a ransom is paid through Bitcoin or some other form of cryptocurrency that’s hard to trace. Once one computer is infected, the ransomware tries to spread to shared storage drives and other systems on the network. If the victim doesn’t pay the ransom, the files stay encrypted and unavailable. Even after paying the ransom, cybercriminals sometimes demand additional payments or just don’t bother to provide the decryption key to restore file access.
Ransomware is typically delivered via phishing emails or “drive-by downloads.” Phishing emails look like they come from a legitimate source and get the recipient to click on a malicious link, or attachment containing the ransomware. A drive-by download is code that automatically downloads ransomware from an infected website without the user’s knowledge and may then run without the user’s interaction. Ransomware can also come from fake apps and malicious ads, or malvertising.
Here’s how to protect your systems:
- Back up all your data, every day. If you back up your data, you can tell cybercriminals they can keep your encrypted data. But you do have to back up your data apart from your systems and network. That means you have to use a cloud backup service, or back up to an external hard drive that is only connected to the system when you’re backing up and is then immediately disconnected. Ideally, use both types of backup. You can set up the cloud to back up so frequently, you’ll lose no more than an hour of data. But the external hard drive gives you ultimate security, especially if kept in a fireproof safe.
- Keep your operating system, software, and hardware up-to-date. Attackers look for vulnerable applications and operating systems. Installing the latest updates patches these vulnerabilities. But you also need to make sure your hardware is current enough to accept all the new updates. If not, it’s time to buy some new equipment.
- Don’t click on links in spam emails or on unknown websites.
- Don’t open questionable email attachments. Check the sender address. If you’re not expecting the attachment, call or text the sender and ask if they sent it.
- Don’t open attachments that prompt you to run macros to view them, which can then give malware control of your computer.
- Don’t disclose personal information replying to a call, text, or email from an unknown source. Cybercriminals use this information to tailor phishing messages to you.
- Never download software or media files from unknown sites. Trustworthy sites use “https” instead of “http” in the browser address bar. A shield or lock symbol also indicates the page is secure. Be cautious downloading anything to a mobile device, except from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
- Never connect USB sticks or other storage devices to your computer if you don’t know their source.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive transactions unless you’re using a secure VPN service.
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