How to Avoid Ransomware
Ransomware is a form of malicious software that often disguises itself as a legitimate program but, hence its name, tries to extort money out of its victim. Like most malware, ransomware typically takes advantage of social engineering tactics and vulnerabilities in operating systems and other software. While ransomware itself can be extremely harmful, it usually gets onto a computer in the first place by way of a Trojan horse that gives a remote attacker control over your machine. As such, having ransomware on your computer often points to an even bigger problem and one that you urgently need to deal with as soon as it arises.
One of the most infamous examples of ransomware is CryptoLocker, a Trojan horse that was first posted online in 2013 and has been released in various different forms since then. Criminals used CryptoLocker to remotely encrypt files on your computer so that you cannot access them until you make a ransom payment. Although the malware itself may be easily removed, there remains no other way to regain access to the encrypted files. Fortunately, this particular malware has since been taken down and its developer arrested, but ransomware, among other malicious software, remains a recurring risk that all Internet users should be aware of.
If your files get encrypted by ransomware, then you’ve effectively lost them for good in most cases, unless you make the payment. However, paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee anything, and most professionals would advise against it for this very reason. Additionally, sending any kind of payment information to a criminal is obviously not exactly a great idea anyway! Fortunately, if you keep everything backed up on a completely separate device, then you’ll never have to worry about losing data that’s being held to ransom. Instead, you’ll be able to safely wipe your computer, getting rid of all malicious software in the process. As such, you should get into a routine of regularly backing up your personal files, or you can use a backup and file synchronization program to take care of it automatically. Most importantly, your backups should be stored externally on a completely separate device so that they themselves are not likely to get encrypted by ransomware.
Keeping your operating system and, even more importantly, your antivirus software up-to-date at all times is also a good practice to get into. For example, Microsoft regularly releases updates for Windows and other programs to address any security flaws as soon as they arise. In fact, in Windows 10, you can’t even turn off updates any more due to the great importance of keeping your system files current. However, if you’re running an older version of Windows or a different operating system altogether, you should always make sure that automatic updates are enabled or, better still, update to the newest version.
Most ransomware gets onto your computer either via email or by downloading torrents, particularly those containing pirated content. As such, you should always exercise caution when opening emails from unknown senders, particularly those containing attachments. Most importantly, you should always avoid downloading any kind of executable file, such as those with an EXE extension, that arrives as an unexpected email attachment. Even if you receive the email from someone you know, there’s always the chance their account might have been hacked.
As is the case with any kind of malicious software, it’s always best to prepare for the worst and make sure that your data is both safely backed up and protected using the latest data backup and security solutions. Fortunately, newer versions of Windows do quite a satisfactory job of keeping your computer safe from attacks by cybercriminals, but there’s still no substitute for being vigilant while using the Web.
For assistance securing your email and network or setting up a backup solution that is safe from ransomware, give us a call at 805-964-3235.