Ransomware was featured prominently in the summer of 2017 when the WannaCry attack hit thousands of users, becoming one of history’s largest cyber attacks. While the more significant cases involve large companies dealing with huge amounts of data, small businesses and home internet users have been reported to affected by this as well.
While this is a serious cyber security issue, there are ways that you can protect yourself from falling victim to this. Listed below is an overview on what ransomware is, how it works, and what you can do to protect yourself against this.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware which gets into the users’ system and accessing their files. Once they have gained control of these, they limit the user’s access to these by locking these files down until the user pays the price or the ransom for the decryption key.
The price often depends on the attacker and the magnitude of the attack, but with the increasing popularity of cryptocurrency, many ransoms are requested to be paid out in bitcoin.
How Does it Work?
There is a number of ways that a system may get affected by ransomware, the same way other types of malware finds itself into a system. Ransomware can infect a system when users visit malicious or compromised websites. It can also find its way into a system via phishing links often found in spam emails.
Once users click on those links, it either redirects them to a malicious site, or it automatically downloads the file on to your system. Ransomware can also be introduced in to the system via maladvertisements, which are advertisements that contain malware that downloads itself onto the system when the user clicks on these. This is especially common now with online businesses and marketing.
Once it is executed within the system, the malware can either lock the system screen, or encrypt files within the system. In the case of the compromised screen, a full-screen notification is displayed on the screen, informing the user that their system has been compromised, and prevents the user from accessing the system.
This notification also informs the user about the instructions on how to pay the ransom to regain control of their system. If the ransomware is the type to encrypt personal files, access to critical files on the system cannot be accessed in any way or form. Access to the system or the files can only be regained once the user pays the ransom for the decryption key.
Protecting Yourself Against Ransomware
There is no foolproof way to protect yourself completely from ransomware, but there are measures that you can take to minimize the risk of being exposed to this malware.
- Make sure your system is always kept up-to-date. Everytime your operating system sends out a new patch or system update, it is usually to fix any bugs or vulnerabilities found in the previous version. By keeping your system updated, you guarantee that your system minimizes the number of vulnerabilities in its system.
- Do not install unfamiliar software. Disable the auto-install option on your system to make sure that any software installation must go through you first. This guarantees that you are familiar with the programs installed on your system and reduces the probability of malware installation.
- Backup your files. The best way to reduce the damage caused by ransomware is to update your files frequently, so in the event that you do fall victim to this malware, the damage caused isn’t so severe.
- Invest in VPN. Here are our recommended companies providing VPN services that will fully protect your online information and activities.