What is a ransomware? What's the point? How to protect yourself?

Good to know about ransomware

First things first, let’s define what ransomware is.

This modern cyber phenomenon is a kind of hackers’ attack in which they take control of a computer or a mobile device in order to demand payment. The attack is mostly targeted against larger businesses but sometimes it’s individuals who are affected. To achieve their aim hackers need to download malicious software onto a victim’s computer or gadget and then launch the attack, encrypt files and threaten the victim to block access to the files, pictures, documents until a ransom is paid.

From the above it’s clear that if hackers can’t download these files onto your device, you won’t be affected. That’s the main thing you have to bear in mind. For this reason, always be suspicious of emails, websites and apps which come from an unknown source.

Lately, you have heard less about ransomware attacks, but that doesn't mean there's less of them. There are incidents all over the world. 

The question arises: Which target group is the most affected? Unfortunately, everyone. Without exception. Small companies are just as targeted as larger organisations.

There are three areas of defence:

  • Technical protection
  • Protection with secure processes
  • Education

Interestingly, the 'human' element is proven to be the weakest link quite often. What does it mean? Even if there is a strong technical protection installed, inattentive employees without a proper education can cause a serious trouble by letting the malicious software into the system.

Open sign hanging on a door

Here are some ways to protect yourself from ransomware:

1.) Back up your files

The best protection against ransomware is to back up all of the information and files stored on your device in a completely separate system, in that case if you by any chance suffer an attack you won't loose any information.

Some solutions:

  • External hard drive
  • External servers

You can do the backup manually (not recommended) and you can also use automated solutions. 

2.) Be cautious

The most common way for the software to be installed on a victim's device is through phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites and questionable apps and software.
Always be cautious when you open unsolicited emails or visit websites your are unfamiliar with. Never download an app that hasn't been verified by an official store and read reviews before installing software.

3.) Use an antivirus software

It’s a good old computer security tip to use antivirus software which can stop ransomware from being downloaded onto computers in the first place and if it has already been installed it can be discovered. Unfortunately it can't give 100% protection, so be REALLY cautious (see above).

4.) Always install updates

Installing updates is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself.

5.) Never pay the ransom

Even if you become a victim, you are advised to never pay the fee as it encourages attackers on one hand and on the other hand there is no guarantee that the lost data will ever be recovered.

6.) Last resort

If you can’t recover your files, you still can re-install your operating system. Although you won’t get back your files, your computer/device can still work properly after re-installing the system. Remember, ransomware is ‘just’ a software which can be deleted. In this case all your file will be lost but the hardware won’t be damaged.

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