How To Protect Yourself Against A Ransomware Attack

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system. This type of malware forces its victims to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods in order to grant access to their systems, or to get their data back.1

If you haven’t already come across it, ransomware is something that everyone should know about. It’s a form of virus which seeks to capture systems remotely, locking their files away until the owner has paid a ransom, usually in cash or bitcoins.

Depending on who is infected, ransomware infection can be anything from a slight inconvenience to a complete disaster. What’s worse is that it is becoming more common all the time, affecting everyone from individual computer users to large public institutions like hospitals and schools.

So how can individuals and businesses protect themselves against the threat posed by ransomware?

Remember to Exercise Caution When Using E-Mail

Although once you are infected, your options are limited, there are plenty of ways to prevent the infection in the first place — so take the right precautionary measures.

It should be common sense by now, but whenever e-mails appear slightly suspicious, and especially if they contain strange attachments, do not open them. Ransomware might escape spam filters, and it will usually be dressed up to resemble normal e-mails, so exercise caution and don’t be afraid to ask contacts to resend messages if you are concerned that their accounts have been hacked.

Use E-Mail Filters To Your Advantage

Some e-mail providers allow users to apply advanced filters to their accounts that can remove any messages with .EXE attachments. Remember that in many cases, hackers use .ZIP files with an executable stored inside them, so it makes sense to include these in your filters too.

If you or your business rely on sharing executables and other files that could be infected, the Cloud is a good way to do so. That way, the executables will never have to be stored on your PC in the first place, restricting access to your drives.

Be On The Look-Out For Fake Anti-Virus Installers

One of the most common ways used by hackers to install their devious ransomware on target computers is by posing as legitimate programs. Ironically, they often choose to masquerade as anti-virus tools, before leaving their targets on the wrong end of an attack.

Be extremely cautious when downloading any security tools, and stick to reputable firms with plenty of legitimate feedback. Avoid the temptation to download from shady sites or torrents, which could contain myriad security threats, not just ransomware.

Back-Up Your Data Regularly

Another thing that users should always bear in mind is the need to back-up data regularly. This doesn’t have to apply to all of your media files and programs, but it should cover any confidential or vital documents. It’s often worth holding these remotely in any case, so that they are not physically linked to your e-mail account.

If you do choose to back-up everything routinely, this is a sure way to protect against wholesale ransomware attacks where the entire drive is locked. Many ransomware viruses also lock mapped drives, so it’s a good idea not to leave USB drives connected all the time, as they pose an additional risk.

CARBONITE-logo Carbonite Cloud Backup is an inexpensive way to back up your data and allows easy recovery if your computer gets infected with ransomware.

Update Your Software

Online security is constantly being refined by the major software companies, but users don’t always take advantage of their developments. Even the most professionally written applications can contain vulnerability exploits, opening the door to ransomware attackers, so continually update your software when prompted.

The same applies to your anti-virus and malware databases. When ransomware is detected by security analysts, it is processed just like any other virus and placed on anti-virus databases – so don’t leave yourself unprotected.

Go Deep with a Layered Protection Suite

If you are extremely concerned about protecting your files from remote capture, a layered protection suite is definitely something to consider. These packages are generally used by businesses to inoculate their networks against attacks, allowing them to centralize threat analysis and keep all of their individual workstations protected at once.

However, this kind of IT solution works best for well-resourced companies, not individual users. For most people, protecting against ransomware is about using common sense, not clicking on unusual e-mails and remembering to update software and back-up files.

If you need to, make up a personalized security routine, and read it through every few days, reminding yourself about the do’s and don’ts of online security. If you do, your system should be protected against attack — and your files should remain secure.

References

1Ransomware definition from Trendmicro.com – http://goo.gl/EZNPIb

About Lambros Computer Solutions

Lambros Computers is dedicated to delivering superior, enduring solutions that are the best match between home use needs and business infrastructure implemented by the best IT consultants in the Fort Myers region. Whatever the need — Networking integration, Data Recovery, Fort Myers IT Support, Preventive care — Lambros Computers has you covered, with a broad selection of on-site Fort Myers services and remote IT services that are available as pre-packaged programs or à la carte. For more information, call 239-303-4343.