Ransomware: 6 steps you can take to protect yourself

Imagine waking up to discover your identity has been stolen or your bank account compromised. Anger, frustration, fear and anxiety start to build up and become more and more overwhelming. As the situation becomes overwhelming, it becomes difficult to make rational decisions. The first thing you do is ask yourself the following questions: Who, Why, How, and What should I Do Next? Once you have a better understanding of your situation, you can start to take the steps necessary to resolve it. You might cancel credit cards or contact your financial institutions. You may find yourself involved in a lengthy process that can impact your life for many months or even years. There are ways to avoid such situations, even though we cannot always protect ourselves. At the time of writing this article, there were hundreds of thousand of compromised systems worldwide. This affected all industries, from transportation to health care. Ransomware, dubbed “Wanna Cry”, was the culprit. What is ransomware? How can we better protect ourselves against it? This article will outline some ways people can prevent such malicious attacks Ransomware.

What is ransomware? Ransomware, also known as malware, is a program that targets system data and encrypts it, preventing its owner from accessing his/her data. Many people may wonder why. It is simple: to make money. This malware is used to hostage data for a fee by the people responsible. The criminals make a promise to release data if payment is received. However, it is a promise, and the promise is generally kept. Now you might wonder how this could happen. The attackers profit from people’s trust and seize on an easy opportunity to make a quick buck. As Chief Information Officer at a top online retailer of contact lenses, I’ve compiled a list that people can use to reduce their risk of being a victim of these attacks.

Awareness.

Protecting yourself is only possible if you are well informed about all potential dangers. Only by being aware can you prepare properly. Keep up-to-date with new and current threats via news outlets and trusted security sites like Symantec. Symantec has a section called “Threats, Risks and Vulnerabilities” in the “Security Center” section. This subsection lists the most recent threats.

Due Diligence.

Phishing attempts are a prime example of the importance to be diligent. Phishing is a method to trick end users into giving personal information that they can later exploit. Many Phishing attempts include hyperlinks to malicious websites and attachments which can launch malicious code to steal information or compromise computers. Although there are many ways to convince people to click these links or open these files and other methods exist, the most common is via email campaigns and disreputable websites. The end user can prevent being exploited by being vigilant and being cautious about emails from unknown sources. They also need to be careful to vet the sites they visit. You can be suspicious of hyperlinks in emails and on questionable websites. Don’t let your curiosity overtake you. It is easy to determine if hyperlinks are misleading by hovering your mouse over the link. You can view the target address in the lower left corner of the browser. Be cautious if the address is not correctly represented by the link text, or if it is an address that you don’t recognize. It is important to remember that an unrecognizable website does not necessarily mean it is malicious. TotalVirus.com allows you to validate URLs by simply entering them. This site then runs scans for potential malware and threats. Although TotalVirus.com cannot guarantee that there won’t be false positives, it can help you identify potentially dangerous websites.

Antimalware and Antivirus software.

Another measure that can be taken is to always have an installed and updated anti-malware/anti-virus software and configuring it to proactively run in real-time and having scheduled scans in place. Many sites offer these tools free of charge, such as Microsoft’s Microsoft Security Essentials tool or Windows Defender. Software can also be purchased from trusted sources like McAfee and Symantec. Many vendors offer free tools that can be used to remove any malware from their systems.

Updates.

The most important step in protecting yourself against attacks is to ensure that your systems are always up-to-date. It is possible to compromise a system by targeting known weaknesses of software vendors. To ensure that you are up-to-date on software updates, make use of Windows Automatic Updates.

Backups.

It is possible to restore your system from a backup created before the compromise date. Backups can provide peace of mind and protect you from ransomware attacks.

Permission granted to the user

Another option is to create user accounts with no permission to uninstall or install programs. These user access controls can help reduce the chance of malicious programs being installed by users.

People can reduce their chances of being a victim by taking the necessary precautions. Many people are out there with malicious intent. Although we cannot avoid all evil, we can take steps to make it as difficult for ourselves as possible