Just as the name suggests, ransomware is malicious software that cybercriminals use to ask for ransom (extort money) from unsuspecting users. The malware will interfere with the normal operation of your computer and may encrypt your files, with the hackers holding the only key.
If you are on Windows, you can get messages such as “Windows can’t open this file” or “Unknown file type” when you try to open a file. On Mac, you can see messages to the effect that there’s no application in your computer that can open the file you are trying to open.
When you take too long before dealing with the ransomware, it may lock you out of your computer system.
Ransomware can make your company lose millions of dollars. To make matters worse, it can spread from one computer to another until your entire network is under its grip. To prevent this menace, follow the nine tips below.
1. Don’t click on suspicious links
Don’t click on any link embedded in a spam email or links sent to you from unfamiliar websites or unverified sources/individuals. Some of these emails contain very enticing messages urging you to click the links.
Once you click on such links, the malware will download into your computer and start encrypting your data. It can also lock your OS so that you can’t open your computer. Your computer will then act as a “hostage” on which the cybercriminals will ask for a ransom to unlock your encrypted files.
You’ll even receive messages instructing you on how to make the payment. In case you fall victim to ransomware, don’t pay the ransom. After all, paying the ransom won’t guarantee you get back your data.
2. Don’t open unverified email attachments
Email attachments work in the same way as email links. The cybercriminals will send you an email with an attachment accompanied by an enticing message requesting you to download the attachment. For example, they can say some bank has sent some cash to your bank account, and the attachment provides the details of the transactions and the amount.
If you get such an attachment, don’t rush to download it. Check the sender’s email and confirm whether it is genuine. If possible, call the person you suspect to have sent it to confirm its authenticity.
Other attachments to avoid are those asking you to have macros enabled before you can view them. Once you open such infected attachments, the macro will run on your computer and give the malicious software full control of your computer.
3. Don’t use strange USB drives
USBs are among the tools that cybercriminals use to spread malware. For this reason, please don’t use any USB or any external storage device on your computer unless you trust whoever gave it to you. If possible, stop using USB sticks that are not yours.
4. Keep your operating system and software up-to-date
Keeping your operating system and software up-to-date is another great way of preventing a ransomware attack. Cybercriminals work around the clock to identify the loopholes in operating systems and software.
Software and OS updates seal these loopholes. That’s why you need to have up-to-the-minute security patches on your software and OS.
5. When on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN
It would be best if you were cautious when using public Wi-Fi. When using public Wi-Fi, your computer will be more open to ransomware attacks than on private Wi-Fi.
To enhance your safety on public Wi-Fi, use a secure virtual private network (VPN). This will allow you to work online anonymously by creating for you a private network. If possible, avoid using public Wi-Fi.
6. Don’t share your personal data
A cybercriminal can call or send you a text/email asking for your details, pretending to be your bank, service provider, or employer. When you provide such details, they’ll find it very easy to send ransomware to your computer, especially if it’s connected to the internet. Remember that employers and reputable organizations never ask for personal details via phone calls or emails.
So, when you receive requests from untrusted sources asking for your details, just ignore them. You can then contact the company later to find out if the call was genuine.
Also, don’t share your passwords with anyone, even if you trust them.
7. Don’t download files from untrusted sites or via P2P
While browsing online, you might stumble upon some media files, software, or documents that you feel are worth downloading. The files may look genuine and very important for you or your business.
However, ransomware might have infected these files. So, before you download any file online, find out whether the site you’ve visited is trusted and verified. Most reputable and trusted sites have trust markers that you can easily recognize.
Also, check the search bar; websites using ‘https’ are safer than those that use ‘http.’ These safe sites also have lock or shield symbols in their address bars. If you want to download something on a smartphone, do so only from reliable sources. If it is an Android phone and you want to download an app, go to Google Play Store; if it an iPhone, go to App Store.
8. Make use of a mail server to filter and scan content
Using mail servers to filter and scan content is perhaps the smartest way to stop ransomware attacks. The software will prevent malware-infected spam emails from getting into your inbox and will prevent you from downloading anything that looks suspicious.
9. Install security software
Installing anti-malware software on your computer will protect it against ransomware. Consider security solutions such as Kaspersky or any other software to provide you with comprehensive protection against malware. Also, remember to keep your anti-malware software up-to-date.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. You don’t have to wait until your computer is attacked by ransomware before you take action. Doing that will prove to be more inconvenient and costly.
Taking precautionary and preventive measures will save you the cost, energy, and time you would use to remove ransomware from your system once it gets in.