Ransomware is a type of malicious program that infects your computer and then locks your screen or encrypts your files. Then a “ransom” is demanded to release your data. Most ransomware arrives as an email attachment, along with a message encouraging you to open the file. You could also browse to websites that push malware onto your system without your knowledge.
This particular form of malware is tricky because these emails appear to be legitimate and can be professionally written with proper grammar and spelling. They could embed known trustworthy website links into the email message which may infect your computer.
Once the ransomware has infected your system, your files are locked with an encryption key that is only known by the attacker. Then you are prompted to pay the criminal to provide the key or else they’ll destroy your decryption key. Often there will be a limited time to pay the ransom, typically within a few days. The criminals are not typically interested in your data at all; they simply want you to pay off the ransom.
While there is no 100% safe method to prevent ransomware from entering your system, there are ways to lessen your chances of being attacked and losing your data. The best way to secure against this threat is to prevent ransomware from getting to your system in the first place. Here are some recommended tips to protect your data:
– Regularly update your software, programs, and applications to ensure you have the latest versions. Software companies and hardware companies are constantly updating their systems with new security measures to protect against the latest vulnerabilities. Use Windows update and enable automatic updates for all programs.
– Be very careful about opening email attachments. Be very wary of clicking links in emails, as they may take you to a malware website.
– Back up important files using the 3-2-1 rule: create 3 backup copies on 2 different types of media with 1 backup in a separate location.
– Don’t enable macros. Ransomware can also be distributed in Office documents that trick users into enabling macros.
– Train and retrain employees in your business. Your users can be your weakest link if you don’t train them how to avoid malicious emails and other threats.
– Do not open e-mails that invite you to participate in surveys, contests or other events from companies that you usually don’t deal with, or names you don’t know.
Cybercrime is a highly competitive, multi-billion-dollar business. Ransomware attacks are becoming an increasing global problem with highly sophisticated and malicious attacks against organizations including NASA, law enforcement agencies, universities and health-care institutions. Even small companies are targets.
Understanding ransomware and taking steps to prevent it will go a long way to protecting your company from this threat. For professional assistance with understanding how to secure your network against ransomware and other network attacks, contact your Abilita consultant.