Ransomware has swept the headlines in recent times as one of the most dangerous cyber threats, for good reason. Successful ransomware attacks such as WannaCry affected thousands of organizations across the globe, bringing some service industries in 150 countries nearly to a halt, doing billions of dollars in global damage due to data loss.
While we hear about ransomware in the news when it does such catastrophic damage, we don’t really hear about Ransomware that affects individual users and personal computers. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, because it absolutely does, just on a smaller scale. Individuals may get caught in the crossfire, such as downloading infected email attachments, but cybercriminals really want to deliver their payload to business owners, to maximize the ransom profit.
But whether you’re a business owner or just an individual home computer user, Ransomware is a threat, and you need to know how to prevent it. For individual users, prevention is a bit easy because you only need to worry about yourself and your personal computer habits. For business owners, it becomes a bit complicated because you need to monitor the habits of your employees, and inform them on preventing Ransomware attacks.
This is why Ransomware is so much more successful when it targets businesses, because the amount of actors in the situation is increased. All it takes is one employee falling for a phishing email, or downloading an infected app without approval, to possibly infect the entire company network.
So in this article, we are going to discuss some important tips and guidelines for preventing Ransomware, which can be applied to both individuals and business owners (and their employees).
Strong antivirus protection is a critical part of protection against Ransomware (check out reviews here), especially antivirus software that offers a kind of sandbox environment for launching newly installed apps. Because Ransomware tries to immediately encrypt files, an antivirus software that launches an infected app in a secure virtual sandbox environment will not allow those system modifications to actually take place.
Along with your antivirus software, you should always keep your operating system updated with the latest security patches. In fact, the primary reason ransomware attacks like WannaCry were so successful, was in part because Microsoft had already released an update to fix the security hole that WannaCry exploited, yet many companies around the world did not apply the update.
This should be obvious, but it still happens nearly all the time. You might receive an email that appears to be from your bank, or the government tax agency, or any other kind of official business. The email will typically contain an attachment such as a Word Document, .PDF file, or other type of document typically used for business.
When you download and open the attachment, it may say something like “Please enable macros if you have trouble viewing this document”, followed by a string of characters to give the false impression of being ‘encrypted’.
When you enable macros in the document, it will actually convert the document into a script or executable program that proceeds to download and run the ransomware on your computer, encrypting all your files. So as a general rule of thumb, never download attachments from email addresses you don’t recognize, and certainly never follow the instructions in strange documents.
If you cannot be 100% sure whether or not an email is authentic, try copying parts of the email text into Google, to see if other internet users have reported similar emails. Many ransomware attacks use pretty much the same email message which gets sent to thousands of people.
If nothing pops up in search results, but you’re still unsure, try to verify the email address via communication. Ask for any kind of proof you can as to the authenticity of the email. However, if you’re already unsure, you should probably go with your gut instinct.
Another thing to consider is having a strong ad blocker extension, because malvertising is a real thing. Cybercriminals can inject banner ads with malicious scripts that also exploit security holes in your browser. Yes, we are living in an age where you can catch a virus from banner advertisements, this is something that people need to understand.
Many security experts keeping frequent backups of your system, but when it comes to ransomware, that simply isn’t good enough. Because ransomware can encrypt your entire drive, including the MBC (Master Boot Record), which means ransomware can also completely encrypt or even erase your locally stored backups.
This is why you need to keep backups on an external drive, such as a USB drive. And you need to keep this external drive disconnected from your computer at all times, so that a virus never has a chance to spread to it. Many viruses attach themselves to any external drives they find, to infect any other computers the drives are plugged into.
One of the best defenses against Ransomware or any other cybersecurity threats is to stay informed of the latest techniques cybercriminals are using to infect computers. By reading this article, you’ve increased your knowledge and learned a few things – but your learning shouldn’t stop here. You need to be constantly vigilant, as new threats arise every day.
If you’re a business owner, knowing the latest cybersecurity threats will allow you to spread the information amongst your employees, and also communicate and strategize better with your IT department on handling threats.
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