Wednesday, May 31, 2017
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.
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Viruses and other forms of malware have been around for awhile now, but ransomware represents a whole new level of online threat. Unlike the first computer viruses, which sought to destroy data, and the later forms of malware which sought to steal it, ransomware actually holds your files hostage until you pay a ransom to get them back.
The required ransom for the return of the data varies widely, from a couple hundred dollars to thousands or tens of thousands when large businesses and critical infrastructure like hospitals and government agencies are targeted. Regardless of the amount demanded, a ransomware infection is an extremely scary and dangerous thing.
Even worse, once your system has been compromised the same ransomware bandits could strike again, taking your data hostage and holding you up for even more money. As with earlier forms of computer hacking and malware infection, the best way to protect against the growing threat of ransomware is prevention. Here are 4 smart ways to keep ransomware off your computer and out of your life.
#1. Keep Your System Up to Date
Keeping your computer up to date is one of the best ways to protect yourself from all kinds of malware, including ransomware. Software and hardware manufacturers discover new vulnerabilities all the time, and when they do they issue patches and updates. Installing those patches and updates promptly is the best way to prevent ransomware writers from exploiting those vulnerabilities.
#2. Use a Good Spam Filter
Many malware infections, including ransomware, originate with an email written and sent by the bad guys. Using a powerful spam filter is one of the best ways to protect yourself from these threats. Check your inbox carefully and be sure to mark any suspicious messages as spam. Over time, the spam filter will learn which messages are legitimate and which ones are not, filtering out dangerous messages before you even see them.
#3. Think Before You Click
Even the best spam filter cannot catch every suspicious email, and it is up to you to use common sense and good judgment. Always think before you click, and be suspicious of any email containing embedded links. If in doubt, contact the sender to verify the authenticity of the message, or go directly to the sender's website rather than clicking the emailed link.
#4. Back Up Your Data Frequently
Threatening to hold your files hostage does not carry the same level of threat if you have a backup copy ready. Backing up your data on a daily basis is perhaps the best way to protect against the threat of ransomware. If you have a current backup and a ransomware infection does strike, you can simply clean your computer and download your backed up files. Cloud backup services make this kind of protection easier than ever before, so there is no reason not to do it.
Ransomware is a growing threat, and one that is only expected to get worse in the future. If you want to protect your computer, it is not enough to install anti-virus software and forget it. You need to take proactive steps, and use your own common sense, to keep the bad guys at bay and keep your data protected.
Bit by bit can assist you in protecting your system from existing and future threats! Contact us for an appointment today, 877.860.5831 or the website.
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