Computer viruses and malicious applications are everywhere these days and hackers and cybercriminals are coming up with more and more elaborate ways in which to infiltrate your computer. The harmful pieces of software are designed to wreak all sorts of havoc on your system from stealing sensitive information to exploiting your computer’s resources and beyond.
How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks?
But one particular class of dangerous programs is known as ransomware and it has become especially popular in recent years. Ransomware is designed to (in most cases) encrypt users’ files directly on their computers and thus prevent anyone from accessing them. And then, the hackers behind the virus demand that they be paid a certain amount of money in order to decrypt said files.
Sometimes even if the victims choose to cooperate with the cybercriminals and fulfill the demands, their files can remain encrypted. So it’s pretty safe to say that ransomware attacks are highly devastating and it’s better to prevent them than be faced with their consequences.
And that is why we’ve put together a few recommendations that can help reduce the risk of landing a ransomware infection. Let’s have a look:
- Keep your operating system updated
This is a general safety tip (we have several of these here) and it’s a one of the ways in which to prevent all malware attacks – not just ransomware. By updating your OS on a regular basis, you all any potential security leaks or issues to be patched up. In addition, with some operating systems, this will also update the virus database of any integrated protection tools, which is essential in keeping the latest threats at bay.
- Use antivirus or antimalware software
It sounds like a no-brainer, but many people fully disregard the necessity of having this much needed layer of protection on their computers. Many antivirus systems these days even have anti-ransomware definitions and can prove especially helpful in the fight against this type of threats. If you’re unsure of what security software to turn to, you can check out some of the ones we’ve reviewed here.
And just as with your operating system, it’s important that you regularly allow your antivirus or antimalware program to be updated as well.
- Avoid using public networks
Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those you can connect to in an airport or the nearby café are generally unprotected by a password and have no encryption to secure your connection. Therefore, it is as easy for anyone to get hold of the information you share via such a connection as it is for you to connect to the network.
If you really have to use a public network for whatever reason, try to do so only with a VPN. There are many VPN services available on the market, but most of them all do the same job of protecting your identity when it really matters the most. We have reviewed a few great VPN providers that you can check out here in our site.
- Do not interact with untrusted links or email attachments
This is a big one. No, it’s a huge one. Ransomware variants are most commonly distributed via phishing emails and they can be embedded in links or in files that have been attached to said emails.
First and foremost it’s important that you pay attention to any unsolicited emails or social media messages before you take any action towards them. Carefully assess who the sender is, hover over any links (especially if they’ve been shortened) to see what the full URL is and if you are unsure of whether what you see is safe – leave it alone.
A sure sign that something is terribly wrong if when you try to open an attachment it asks you to enable macros. That’s when you can be certain there’s some kind of virus or malware inside.
- Do not give out personal information
Similarly to the notion with phishing emails, hackers may try to obtain personal information from you first in order to be able to target you with a subsequent attack. So if you ever happen to receive an email, a phone call or other means of communication via which you are asked to provide sensitive information (personal details, passwords, account numbers, etc.) – do not provide any such information. Banks and financial institutions are usually very clear on the fact that they will never ask such details from you over the phone/email, so whoever is inquiring is most likely looking to scam you.
- Use only trusted download sources
It’s hardly news to anyone that malware and viruses (ransomware included) can often be hidden inside downloadable content. Therefore, it’s important that you only use reliable sources to download things from. That means you should avoid illegal websites that distribute pirated or cracked software, media, etc.
This applies to downloads you make onto your phone or other portable device as well. Only use the official application stores (Google Play for Android devices and the App Store for iOS).
- Use email content scanners
There is software available for mail servers that will scan and filter any spam messages that may be harboring malware. This method isn’t fool-proof of course, but it will by the very least reduce the chances of you receiving emails containing ransomware.
- Backup your files
This step won’t prevent ransomware from getting into your computer, but it’s still a preventative measure and one of the most effective means of disarming a ransomware attack.
Be sure to keep backups of all your files (or by the very least the ones you know you can’t do without) on at least three separate locations. One can be on the device where you work on them, another can be on a separate hard drive and a third should be something off-site (at a friend’s house, with your relatives, etc.). That way even if a ransomware attack does take place, you will have copies of the data it encrypts and it will have nothing to blackmail you with.