Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that can infect computers. It usually encrypts files on the victim’s hard drive so that they become inaccessible unless a ransom amount ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars is paid. Some types of ransomware also threaten to publish the files online if payment isn’t made.
While many people think that ransomware is a new phenomenon, this type of cyber security threat has been around for quite some time. In fact, the first documented ransomware attack took place in 1989. The malware that delivered the attack was poorly designed, making it possible to restore the affected files without paying.
However, in the last few years, ransomware has gotten more prevalent and sophisticated. The availability of anonymous crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are used by most ransomware, has also made things easier for cyber criminals, as they can receive ransom payments with little chance of being caught.
Ransomware has become one of the top cyber security threats. But there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from ransomware attacks. Here are what security experts recommend:
Download Software Only from Trusted Sources
Just like other types of malware, ransomware is often distributed in the form of a Trojan, which means that it masquerades as a potentially useful software program. For this reason, you should be careful about the software that you download and install on your PC.
Only get software from reputable and well-known websites. You should also avoid downloading programs from links in emails or social media messages, especially if they come from people you don’t know.
Keep Your Operating System and Web Browser Updated
Malicious software often exploits flaws in the Windows operating system and web browsers to infect a PC. In some cases, your computer can become infected simply by visiting a compromised website, even if you don’t actually click on any links to download a program.
To protect yourself from such exploits, you should ensure that Windows Update is turned on. Browsers like Chrome and Firefox automatically download updates that patch security vulnerabilities quickly after they’ve been discovered. It’s highly recommended that you leave these automatic updates on.
Use Security Software
High quality anti-virus software can provide very good ransomware protection, in addition to keeping you safe from various other security threats. You should always have an anti-virus program installed on your PC, as it will scan for threats as you browse the web and use your computer.
While they provide decent ransomware protection, security programs aren’t completely foolproof. It’s possible that a very new ransomware can elude detection or that the anti-virus program only catches the attack after some files were already encrypted.
Make Regular Backups of Your Important Files
While backups won’t prevent a ransomware attack, they’ll greatly mitigate the negative effects should your computer become infected by this type of malware. You should regularly backup any important file on your PC, such as documents related to work projects.
The backup should be done to an external drive that isn’t kept connected to your PC, like a USB memory stick. You can also use one of the many cloud-based backup services available today. Making backup copies of your data will not only let you restore your files after a ransomware attack, but will also keep you from losing data if they’re accidentally deleted or if your hard drive fails.
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