Ransomware is file-encrypting malware that asks for money to recover your files. It’s dangerous malware but can be avoided. Here’s how you can avoid ransomware and protect your files.
Some ransomware is particularly ruthless because file decryption may not be possible. And losing certain files could be a disaster for some people. However, if you take certain preventative measures, you can avoid all that.
Protecting your computer from ransomware
Knowing how ransomware is distributed and how it infects computers is necessary to avoid it.
One of the most common ways ransomware infects computers is via spam email attachments. Infected files are attached to emails, and are made to seem like they’re important documents. Commonly, the malicious email is made to look like (although not successfully) something a bank, a tax agency or the goverment would send in order to pressure the user into opening the email attachment.
Usually, these emails are full of grammar mistakes, are sent from random email addresses and contain obvious signs of being bogus. Look out for greetings like “Dear User/Member/Customer/Tax payer”. Your name not used in a greeting should always cause suspicion. Emails spreading ransomware will also pressure you to open the attachment as soon as possible.
Even if no signs point to anything being wrong, if the email was unexpected scan the attached file with anti-virus software before opening it.
Software has flaws which can be used by malicious parties to perform malicious activity. Such as infecting a computer with ransomware. The infamous WannaCry ransomware was able to infect more than 300,000 computers all over the world because users did not install an update that patched a critical vulnerability in Windows. The update was available for some time before the attack, but users ignored it.
Installing your OS and software updates is crucial, so keep that in mind next time an update notification pops up.
Unsafe downloads and torrents
Torrents and other unsafe download sources are crawling with ransomware and other kind of malware. If you are someone who uses torrents, you need to be careful about what you download. Always read people’s comments to be sure that you are downloading what you intended and will not end up with a nasty surprise on your computer.
Protecting your files from ransomware
Accidents happen, and it’s possible you will accidentally infect your computer with ransomware. To prepare for such a scenario, there are things you need to do. Most importantly, backup!
It’s always a good idea to back up all important files, whether it’s because of ransomware or out of fear of your computer breaking down. Essentially, you should have a copy of any file you do not want to lose. There are various backup options, you can use cloud services, or you could have an external hard drive. It does not really matter how you do it, as long as you do. If you choose an external hard drive, make sure to regularly back up files but not keep the drive connected to your device.
If your computer becomes infected with ransomware and you have backed up files prior to infection, you can easily recover files from backup. However, before you connect your hard drive or try to get files from the cloud, you first need to make sure the ransomware has been deleted completely. If the ransomware is still present on your computer when you try to access backup, there’s a good chance that the backed up files will become encrypted as well.
In case some files you have not backed up get encrypted, we should caution you about paying the ransom. You must not forget that you are dealing with cyber criminals who likely do not care whether you recover your files or not. They just want your money, so there is nothing stopping them from simply taking your money and not giving back anything in return.
It’s highly recommended to install anti-virus software and keep it running at all times. Also look into security programs that detect ransomware and can prevent file encryption.