If you follow the news, chances are, you've heard about the latest ransomware attack, named WannaCry, that has infected thousands of computers worldwide. While it is still spreading to personal devices and to offices, there are some simple things to keep in mind if you want to stay safe.
Ransomware works by exploiting a vulnerability in your operating system (mostly Windows) and it encrypts your files. The victim is then asked to pay a ransom ($300 worth of Bitcoin) to get their files unencrypted. This situation is avoidable with some precautions while browsing and downloading files from the internet.
Update your Operating System
If you're on an older version of Windows (XP and Win 8), you should immediately upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10 to stay safe from WannaCry. For those of you that are using the latest Windows OS, make sure that your system is up-to-date and you will not be vulnerable to this attack. Since this attack spreads through the internet, it would be wise to avoid spammy-looking emails asking you to open or click on a link. Emails containing download links should not be clicked unless it's from a trusted source. If you have disabled automatic updates on Windows, head over to your control panel and switch it on.
Download and install a ransomware blocker
After you've updated your system, chances are that you won't be a victim of WannaCry. To protect your system from further attacks like this, check whether your antivirus has a dedicated ransomware blocking feature. There are some free software like Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware and CybereasonRansomfree that you can download to protect your PC. This will monitor your incoming and outgoing internet traffic for possible signs of malware and will alert you of any suspicious activity under the hood. After this, set your browser mode to "HTTPS only." This ensures that all the traffic between your computer and the website you visit is encrypted.
Backup your data
There are two options to consider while backing up your documents and media. You could backup your personal and important files on an external hard disc. Copying data would not take more than an hour and a weekly backup is highly recommended. If ever your device gets infected by WannaCry, or your OS crashes, you won't have to fret over lost data. Besides the regular hard disc backup, you can use cloud services like DropBox and Google Drive to safely store your files. Use two-factor-authentication for login to these web services. While they're highly secure portals to store your digital files, it would be best to use an app like Google Authenticator to add an extra layer of security.
What about my mobile devices?
As of now, WannaCry seems to be spreading on Windows specific devices. Nevertheless, if you have an Android, iOS or Windows phone, be careful while browsing and downloading attachments. Only install software and mobile applications from trusted sources that you can rely on.
With these things in mind, you should be safe from every type of online attack like WannaCry. Inform your colleagues and family members on the importance of doing regular backups and downloading files only from trusted sources online. WannaCry is known to spread through computer networks, so a collective awareness is needed to ensure that the hackers don't get their way.