Ransomware: How to Prevent Your Computer From Becoming a Hostage

Individuals and businesses alike can become victims to one of the most malicious of cyber-attacks: ransomware. While it isn’t a new threat, the rate at which it is growing is alarming. Each year seems to bring an increase in the number of victims. It is easy to fall prey as it only requires opening and responding to one phishing email, innocently pressing a link that begins running malicious code, or unknowingly visiting a fraudulent website.

Getting caught up in a ransomware attack can be painful and expensive. But, if you take preventative measures now, you can help protect yourself whether you are an individual or business.

Install and Use Anti-Malware Software

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Image via Flickr by The Preiser Project

Install and run a good anti-malware software. It needs to be up to date and running on all networked systems. A good program will run a secure firewall and scan in real-time, eliminating threats as they occur both in email and while browsing. The cost of the program subscription is cheap when compared to the expenses involved after a cyber-attack.

Back Up Your Data and Keep Programs Updated

The best way to back up data is on a cloud system. It is quick, affordable, and efficient. Making daily backups and saving them on several cloud servers is the best way to preserve important data. It is advisable to also back up data to an external hard drive for redundancy. Develop an emergency recovery plan to outline procedures needed to quickly complete the steps to recover data from an earlier backup in the event of an attack. Keep all programs such as Windows and Office updated to patch security flaws and increase security.

Learn the Threats: Train Employees for Awareness

Employees are the primary targets of ransomware, often unwittingly enabling an attack. Awareness starts with frequent training for employees to learn and understand how and why malware can infect systems. Make sure they set email filters to detect spam and messages that may have malicious code or links. Employees should adhere to the safe whitelists of approved email addresses and domain names. Train employees how to implement the recovery plan and practice these procedures, which are best stored in hardbound copies and are easily accessible. Good recovery plans get businesses and individuals back up and running with reduced downtime.

If you are a victim of ransomware and hackers are demanding a ransom to unlock access to your data and files, there are some things you can do. Put your recovery plan into action if you have one. The tech department can attempt to recover encrypted data or otherwise restore from a backup. If the problem seems too difficult to handle in-house, outside professionals may be the solution.

You should report any attack to law enforcement if it has affected your business or shuttered your data. Most experts agree, it is best to not respond to hackers or pay ransoms; it could all be for naught. Often, hackers won’t send working encryption keys, if they send anything at all. The best advice to avoid becoming a ransomware hostage is to develop a good prevention program and always be prepared.