Anyone who has ever had their computer locked up – and a message displayed asking them for payment to unlock it – is familiar with ransomware. For home users, the threat is usually result of visiting a suspect site created for the very purpose of delivering malware and exacting a price to remove it. Adult sites, game sites and sites aimed at children are among the worst offenders.
While it is aggravating to encounter this issue on a personal computer, it is even worse to have it happen to the one you use at work. Still, there are some easy ways to beat the problem of ransomware on any computer without breaking the bank. Here are a few of the more notable and effective ones:
Exercise common sense – In a nutshell, the act of prevention – that is, avoiding suspicious websites, emails and other unverified code sources – is the easiest and most effective way to beat the problem of ransomware. You will rarely have problems is you stick to the most reputable sites and never open unrecognized emails. Unfortunately, this is a lot easier said than done especially if you allow others – who are not as cognizant of the ransomware threat – to access your computer at home or in the workplace.
Be proactive with anti-virus software – For personal computers, products like McAfee Anti-virus or Malwarebytes will probably suffice to protect you against a large percentage of ransomware attacks. Corporate devices will want to utilize a more robust software package such as SharePoint. The first two programs look for malware and aim to block with active monitoring – but not always effectively. The latter provides access to users through an authenticated web browser session and is thus not yet vulnerable to a ransomware attacks.
Understand the levels of risk – The simplest and most easily thwarted type of ransomware is known as “scareware.” More annoying than harmful a simple reboot and restore will usually rid you of the problem. A little more problematic are screen lockers. They generally place a warning notice on your screen and do not allow you to access the rest of your files. This malware has largely been defeated but sometimes you will have to wipe your computer and start over. The worst level of ransomware are aimed at business with proprietary info that cannot be replaced. Although not really recommended, you may be forced to pay the ransom if hit with this malware.
Do not fall for social engineering – The fight against ransomware is not always a purely technological one. Phishing attacks from dubious emails, to fake phone calls and even physical intrusions are all designed to acquire passwords and other data – from humans, not computers – that will allow the hacker to more easily gain access to a protected computer, database or cloud. Educate yourself on the various modes of attack, stay up with the latest trends and regularly disseminate the information to your colleagues and subordinates.
Backup your files – No matter what precautions you take, a ransomware attack can eventually be successful. Be prepared with a backup system. For individuals and businesses, it is fairly simple to “wipe” a computer and install the previous files if you have them handy. For businesses, this also means the need to adjust recovery point objectives (RPOs) to back up their most important files on an almost continual basis.