Ransomware is a malevolent software that cyberattackers can use to seize your data and hold your machines or files for ransom, and unfortunately, it is an increasingly common way for criminal hackers to extort companies, consumers, governments and more. These attackers may demand payment before giving back your files or computers. Several types of ransomware exist that can infect a computer, but they always come down to an ability to use vulnerabilities in the victim’s software to silently install the ransomware on the machine.
What can be done about Ransomware?
Ransomware is scary – the encrypted files must be considered to be damaged beyond any hope of repair. However, if you have a properly prepared and secured system, these kinds of attacks will amount to little more than an inconvenience. Here are 10 important steps you can take to keep ransomware from destroying your system.
1. Back up your data
This is the number one step to prevent all kinds of unfortunate events that can damage your data. By making a copy of your files and information, you eliminate the threat of their being held for ransom.
2. Filter EXEs in email
EXE files indicate “executable content” within an email, and anything executable means a program. No one should be sending you anything with an executable file via email without telling you beforehand. Therefore, these are always suspicious.
3. Show hidden file extensions
By making file extensions visible, it becomes much easier to spot suspicious files, and it keeps you from having to tediously look through hundreds of file folders for suspicious items.
4. Patch and update your software
Whatever OS you’re running, teams of programmers are working around the clock to develop remedies for the most recently discovered vulnerabilities in your system. If you don’t update your OS, you won’t get the fixes, and you will be vulnerable to all the latest cyberattacks.
5. Use a file locker program
File locker applications set up group policies that disable App Data and Local App Data folders. They also will automatically disable EXE files coming through your email. You can think of it as a kind of airlock and decontamination chamber for your computer.
6. Disable RDP
Remote Desktop Protocol is a setting that allows other users to access your system remotely. Many machines come with it active as a default setting, which means turning it off is necessary to secure your computer.
7. In case of trouble, disconnect immediately
If you accidentally initiate a file that you believe may be ransomware, you may be able to end the attacker’s communication with your computer and stop them from getting your files. The instant your machine begins acting strange, get off the Internet and run a security scan.
8. Use system restore
If you don’t have system restore enabled on your computer, enable it now. You will still need some advanced anti-virus software in case you’ve contracted malware that is designed to survive a system restore event. Still, this is a good way to protect your data.
9. Use a reputable security suite
A lot of free and open source anti-virus and security suites are available. These might be okay for a kid’s computer or an old, disposable machine, but no mission critical computer should be without the latest security software suite.
10. Don’t pay the ransom
You may get your data back if you pay, but you’ll have proven to the criminals that you are a worthwhile target. Remember: No security can prevent ALL attacks. That means the only sure defense against ransomware is non-compliance with criminals. Keep in mind that even if you pay them — they may not return your files — and they could even demand more money.
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