How to protect yourself against a ransomware attack.
In light of the ransomware outbreak earlier this month I would like to give you some information on how to protect yourself against a ransomware attack.
Firstly, what is ransomware? Well let me take it back a step and tell you what malware is as ransomware is a type of malware. Malware is a software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain authorised access to a computer system. Ransomware, is when your files are held to ransom. Ransomware can take over a computer and prevent the user from gaining access to their data until a ransom is paid. Ransomware encrypts data on a computer using an encryption key only the attacker knows. If you want to decrypt them, you have to pay. If the ransom is then not paid, data is often destroyed and lost forever.
As you have mostly probably heard recently in the news, a ransomware attack, also known as WannaCry or WeCrypt, was recently spread across the globe and is believed to have affected 200,000+ organisations. The cyber-attack struck banks, hospitals and government agencies in more than 150 countries, exploiting known vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems.
According to the BBC the majority of machines hit by the WannaCry ransomware worm in the cyber-attack were running Windows 7. This maybe linked to the fact that many organisations failed to apply a patch, issued by Microsoft in March, that blocked the vulnerability which WannaCry exploited.
There have also been suggestions that the reason UK hospitals have suffered is because many of them relied on programmes that required Windows XP – a version of Microsoft’s OS that debuted in 2001. Support for Windows XP was discontinued in 2014. Microsoft actually reneges on its own update policy to push out a patch for unsupported Windows XP and Windows 8 to help defend against the ransomware attack.
Here are some ways to protect yourself from ransomware;
Back up your files
The greatest damage a ransomware attack can have is the loss of files, including pictures and documents.
The best protection against ransomware is to back up all of the information and files on your devices in a completely separate system. A good place to do this is on an external hard drive that isn’t connected to the internet. This means that if you suffer an attack you won’t lose any information to the hackers.
Organisations often save copies of their data to external servers that will not be affected if their main network is attacked.
Be suspicious of emails, websites and apps
For ransomware to work hackers need to download malicious software onto a victims computer. This is then used to launch the attack and encrypt files.
The most common ways for the software to be installed on a victim’s device is through phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites, and questionable apps and programs.
People should always exercise caution when opening unsolicited emails or visiting websites they are unfamiliar with. Never download an app that hasn’t been verified by an official store, and read reviews before installing programs.
Use an antivirus program
An age-old computer security tip, antivirus programs can stop ransomware from being downloaded onto computers and can find it when it is.
Most antivirus programs can scan files to see if they might contain ransomware before downloading them. They can block secret installations from malicious adverts when you’re browsing the web, and look for malware that may already be on a computer or device.
Always install updates
Companies often release software updates to fix vulnerabilities that can be exploited to install ransomware. It is therefore advisable to always download the newest version of a software as soon as it is available.
Never pay the ransom
Victims of ransomware attacks are advised to never pay the fee as it encourages attackers and may not result in files being recovered. There are some programs that can help decrypt files. Or, if you have a back up, you can restore your device from that.