How to Protect Against Ransomware

Not sure whether that email is from a friend? Think that download is legit? Stop. This may be ransomware…

Ransomware affects everyone. It’s not just the big companies that hackers think are juicy peaches waiting to be plucked. No. Ransomware is directed straight at you. The person who enjoys using their laptop to watch movies or catch up on work when they’re at home. The person who diligently sorts through their emails and stays on top of their work. Ransomware is smart, it can catch anyone out, and it’s really hard to get rid of. In fact, it is becoming even more common and causing even more damage than ever before. Just take a look at what happened to City Power in Joburg! One click brought down an entire company.

So, what is ransomware exactly?

Ransomware falls under the umbrella of malware, a term that describes anything from viruses to spyware and that defines a malicious attack with a specific intent. Ransomware is one of the more pernicious of the attack vectors used by hackers today because it blends social phishing and engineering with human error to create something quite nasty. You see, most ransomware emails are written in such a way as to convince most people that they are genuinely from a friend, a work colleague or a legitimate company. They’re designed to lure you in with false information, scary threats or the promise of a good laugh, but the moment you click on that link or attachment, the ransomware kicks in.

It hurtles across your computer, encrypting important files and then locking them down. You aren’t getting into any of your folders until you’ve paid the ransom that the hackers demand. Oh yes, when you try to open your encrypted files, you’ll get a message that looks something like this:

It’s scary. It’s designed to be scary. The hackers want you to be terrified into paying them money so you can get your precious data back.

Do not pay them the money.

The loss of your family photos, videos and memories isn’t going to be a life or death problem but that doesn’t stop it from being a one that really affects you as a person. You must not pay the ransom, that is your first action. Your second is to stop reading this article and go and back up your data. Right now. You can use a cloud service like Dropbox or OneDrive or you can use a hard drive – a hard drive that is not connected to your machine unless you are doing backups. Then, come back and find out what happens next.

Ready? Really don’t pay the ransom.

Sometimes a ransomware will be so virulent that you will have to reset your entire system but usually ransomware is fixed after a period of time. It could be that yours will be one of the ransomware types that isn’t ever unlocked, but most often the encryption is removed thanks to virus updates, law enforcement or the hackers simply moving on. Rather speak to an IT expert who can help you minimise the damage and sort out your system until either the hackers walk away or you wipe your computer and start again.

To prevent a ransomware attack from happening to you, or to at least minimise the chances of you being a victim, here are some simple steps:

  1. Install an antivirus on your computer that’s reputable, reliable and constantly updates your system. It will likely catch that ransomware and you’ll never see it.
  2. Don’t click on links or open attachments in emails that have dodgy spelling or don’t quite look right. It COULD be your mate sent you that attachment, or they could have been hacked themselves. Rather check first.

Finally, don’t blame yourself if you fall victim to a ransomware attack. The hackers are smart, this is their livelihood, and they are always looking at new ways of causing chaos. Rather prepare for the worst and be kind to someone who makes the mistake, after all, it could have been you…

As part of our fibre Internet service Mind the Speed offers a free backup service so why not take advantage of this secure and safe space where you can ensure your data is protected from harm. We can also provide you with insights and advice around the benefits of cloud backup solutions and the best ones for you. Contact us today.