Ransomware won't happen to me! or will it?

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This is a word we probably have all heard of, but assume it applies only to large business’s /companies, this is not strictly true. As our world becomes more reliant on ‘online’ life, we are venerable to these infiltrations. But what is it?

Let’s start with the basics.  

Ransomware is malware that employs encryption to hold a victim’s information at ransom. The hacker uses it to encrypt a user or organization’s critical data so that they cannot access files, databases, or applications. A ransom is then demanded to provide access. It is a growing threat, generating billions in payments to cybercriminals and inflicting significant damage and expenses for businesses and governmental organizations.  

Here are some points to remember:

  1. Be cautious of emails asking you to act  

If you receive an email, call, or text asking you to download software or pay a certain amount of money, don’t click on anything or take any direct action from the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links or forking over money unnecessarily. 

  1. Hover over links to see and verify the URL 

If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether. 

  1. Go directly to the source 

Instead of clicking on a link in an email or text message, it’s always best to check directly with the source to verify an offer, request, or link. 

  1. Browse with caution 

Many reputable Antivirus companies like McAfee or Norton can help identify malicious websites and suspect links that may be associated with phishing schemes. 

What can I do if I do get ransomware?

  1. Back up your data  

If you get ransomware, you’ll want to immediately disconnect any infected devices from your networks to prevent the spread of it. This means you’ll be locked out of your files by ransomware and be unable to move the infected files. Therefore, it’s crucial that you always have backup copies of them, preferably in the cloud and on an external hard drive. This way, if you do get a ransomware infection, you can wipe your computer or device free and reinstall your files from backup.  Backups protect your data, and you won’t be tempted to reward the malware authors by paying a ransom. Backups won’t prevent ransomware, but they can mitigate the risks.

  1. Change your credentials 

If you discover that a data leak or a ransomware attack has compromised a company you’ve interacted with, act immediately and change your passwords for all your accounts. And while you’re at it, go the extra mile and create passwords that are seriously hard to crack with this next tip.

  1. Take password protection seriously 

When updating your credentials, you should always ensure that your password is strong and unique. Many users utilize the same password or variations of it across all their accounts. Therefore, be sure to diversify your passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all your accounts at once, should one password be compromised. You can also employ a password manager  to keep track of your credentials and generate secure login keys, these can also come with your reputable antivirus such as the Norton or McAfee Range.   

  1. Enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication 

Two or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, as it requires multiple forms of verification. For instance, you’ll be asked to verify your identity through another device, such as a phone. This reduces the risk of successful impersonation by hackers.  This is becoming almost obligatory with most online sites now, particularly Banks and building societies.

  1. Browse safely online 

Be careful where you click. Don’t respond to emails and text messages from people you don’t know, and only download applications from trusted sources. This is important since malware authors often use social engineering to get you to install dangerous files. Using a security extension on your web browser is one way to browse more safely.

  1. Only use secure networks 

Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, since many of them are not secure, and cybercriminals can snoop on your internet usage. Instead, consider installing a VPN, (with a good reliable Antivirus, this is included) which provides you with a secure connection to the internet no matter where you go.    

  1. Never pay the ransom 

While it is often large organizations that fall prey to ransomware attacks, you can also be targeted by a ransomware campaign. If this happens, don’t pay the ransom. Although you may feel that this is the only way to get your encrypted files back, there is no guarantee that the ransomware developers will send a decryption tool once they receive the payment.

  1. Use a reputable comprehensive Antivirus protection 

Comprehensive security solutions also include many of the tools we mentioned above and are simply the easiest way to ensure digital safety online.  

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