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8 ways to prevent ransomware

January 9, 2018    |    Cyber Security    |    Private Tunnel

Ransomware removal and prevention

One billion dollars! That’s how much the FBI estimates is paid each year because of ransomware. Many people would rather bury their heads in the sand, or just cross their fingers and hope it doesn’t happen to them — but that's just not a feasible plan. Unfortunately, ransomware is going to be around for a good long while. Cybercriminals know just how lucrative this type of attack can be — and they are going to keep utilizing this method so they can keep profiting. Criminals want to make an easy buck, and ransomware is the best method. The rapid proliferation of these attacks has highlighted the need for everyone to make cyber security a top priority.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious software that takes over your computer and denies you access to your data by encrypting (converting to code) everything on your computer. The ransomware attacker then demands a ransom from the victim in order to restore normal access. Users are instructed to pay a fee to get the decryption key. The ransom cost can range from a few hundred dollars, to thousands and thousands.

There are also a few different kinds of ransomware:

  • Crypto malware. This is the most common type of ransomware that encrypts files on the device in order to extort money.
  • Lockers. This kind of ransomware infects operating systems to completely lock users out of their devices.
  • Scareware. This is fake software that claims to have found issues on your computer, and demands money to resolve the fake issue.
  • Doxware. This type of malware threatens to publish your stolen information online if you don’t pay the ransom.
  • Ransomware as a service (RaaS). This is where cybercriminals create ransomware and sell it to other people to use.

How Do you Get Ransomware?

Ransomware can be spread many different ways:

  • From phishing emails, when users open up malicious attachments.
  • Over the internet when a user visits an infected website, and the malware is downloaded and installed without the user’s knowledge.
  • Through outdated software — Malware combs through the internet to find vulnerabilities in outdated software.
  • By infecting peer-to-peer file-sharing systems and spreading the malware into the user device.
  • From clicking on malicious pop-ups that look like legitimate alerts.
  • Via Local Area Networks (LANs). A LAN is a group of computers that connect locally and share information over a private network. If one computer in the network is infected with malware, it can spread to all the other computers.

Ransomware Removal

Sometimes ransomware removal can be possible without damaging or losing your files. Avast offers an antivirus software with a ransomware removal tool, which scans for and eliminates any ransomware attempts on your computer. They also offer a comprehensive step-by-step guide to ransomware removal. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases ransomware removal is very difficult, and results in total and permanent loss of your data. The safest bet is to prevent yourself from ever getting infected with ransomware in the first place.

How to Prevent Ransomware

Here are some important steps you can take to prevent ransomware attacks on your business.

  1. Use security software. Install and use a trusted security suite like Norton or Avast that offers more features than just basic antivirus software.
  2. Update! Update! Update! Make sure all your internet-capable devices are protected from viruses and malware, and keep your security software current and up to date at all times. Turn on Automatic Software Updates whenever possible.
  3. Be aware. We stress this again and again that the weakest spot in your personal cybersecurity plan is often you. It can be your strongest spot, but it all depends on how well you’re aware of the risks. Educate yourself on phishing scams, social engineering, password use, public WiFi and so on.
  4. Filter web traffic. You may employ a blacklist of websites not safe to access, or go the safer route and define a whitelist: sites that you know are secure. Cut down on the risk of inadvertently clicking on dangerous links that would download malware to your devices.
  5. Always use a VPN. A reputable VPN like Private Tunnel will keep all your data secured, and hidden from cybercriminals looking to invade.
  6. Use email filters. Set them up to stop spam on both inbound and outbound emails. Stop those harmful emails before they even hit your inbox.
  7. Backup your information frequently! All critical information should be included in a regular backup plan and tested for quality. If ransomware strikes, you will be able to restore your most important data and continue on with normal life much faster.
  8. Understand your network. Could you draw a visual representation of your network? Do you have one already mapped out? If not, figuring out where an attack has the access to spread can save you valuable time.

By following these steps you will greatly reduce your risk of being infected with ransomware. But there is one last tip: if you do still end up infected, don’t pay the ransom. Sometimes people get lucky and paying the ransom gets their data restored — but more often than not, the cybercriminal asks you to pay again and again, without ever releasing your data.

Cybersecurity should be a top priority for individuals. Cybercriminals don’t care who you are, they just want to profit off of you — and we’re each a target simply because of how connected we are to technology. Make sure you know how to prevent ransomware, and make sure you are proactive with your prevention, protection and recovery.

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