Ransomware is a form of malware that gains access to your system and then locks you out of your computer until you pay a ‘ransom’ to gain back control. Ransomware can creep into your system or network through a malicious file or software and then encrypt the data on your devices until you make a payment to access the decryption key. Ransomware is quite frequent, which is why big organisations invest a lot of money in cybersecurity. In this article, we show you how you can prevent a ransomware attack and what to do in case you are hit by a ransomware attack.
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How to prevent a ransomware attack
There are some measures you can take in advance to reduce the possibility of a ransomware attack. While big organisations are able to fund state-of-the-art cybersecurity, individuals and small business owners don’t usually go that route. Here are some steps you can take to prevent a ransomware attack.
Maintain regular backups
Since ransomware attacks the data on your device, you can easily nullify any leverage the attackers may have by maintaining regular backups of your data. Make sure you back up your data on another device or network. The frequency of data backups should depend on the rate at which you collect data. If you own a business, daily data backups are highly advised. As an individual user, you can schedule a weekly data backup for your system. With an updated backup of your data, you don’t have to pay if your system gets attacked by ransomware.
Practice basic cyber awareness
You’d be surprised how easily malware can creep into your computer. Always make sure you don’t click any suspicious links or download files from unverified sources on the Internet. Apart from that, you should also avoid plugging unknown USBs into your computer. Avoid using public WiFi networks, and if you have no other choice, use a trusted VPN. If you own an organisation, make sure all your employees are briefed on basic cyber awareness.
Use strong passwords and two-factor authorisation
Sometimes hackers use crafty tools to guess the password of your system. Make sure you use strong passwords for every system on your network. Routinely changing the passwords also bumps up security. Using two-factor authorisation also adds an extra layer of security to your system.
Use an anti-virus software
It is better to pay for premium anti-virus software than pay to get rid of ransomware. Good anti-virus software will routinely check your system for potential malware and will scan every file or software you download from the internet before installing it in the system.
Keep software and applications updated
Routinely check for software updates. Most security issues are patched with forthcoming updates, so it is essential you keep all the apps and software on your computer updated at all times. Old software is very vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
Keep admin privileges exclusive
Make sure you do not hand out admin privileges to every system on the network. The admin system can change security settings and has access to every configuration. If a lot of users have this privilege, it gives hackers more spots to attack.
What to do in case of a ransomware attack?
If your system or network is hit by a ransomware attack, you can carry out some steps to mitigate the effects. Here’s what you should do.
Do not give in immediately to the ransomware’s demands. There are some ways to get out of a ransomware attack without paying upfront. Calm down and assess your options. Firstly, you need to take a picture of the message flashing on your screen so you can report it to the authorities. Take a screenshot, if possible.
Isolate the affected system(s)
Isolate the computer(s) affected by the ransomware attack if they are a part of a network. This will prevent the ransomware from spreading to other systems on the network. You will need to disable the WiFi and Bluetooth, unplug any external storage devices, and disconnect from the LAN network. Even if other systems do not show any sign of a ransomware attack, scan them for it as the malware may be dormant.
Identify the malware
There are several websites like ID Ransomware and No More Ransom that help you identify the ransomware strain. Identifying the variant will help you gain more information about the malware and could even help you get rid of it. Even if you are unable to ward off the ransomware, you will have more information to provide to the authorities.
Report the ransomware to the authorities
Getting the authorities involved can help in identifying the attacker and even thwarting any future attacks they may be plotting. This comes at the cost of going public about the ransomware attack, which may bring negative light to your organisation. It is always a good idea to report the attack because it at least places the hackers on the radar of the authorities, thereby reducing the possibility of a future attack on someone else.
Look up any decryption tools
Websites like No More Ransom and Trend Micro offer decryption tools for all kinds of ransomware. You can look up these websites for a tool that matches the variant you are affected by. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are aware of most of the decryption tools floating around and purposely craft malware that is impermeable.
Make an informed choice
Ultimately, it boils down to whether you want to pay to gain access to your data or not. You can either set the precedent and not give in to the demands or pay the money upfront to get rid of the malware. To start afresh, you will need to erase all data from your system, including all external storage devices connected to it. You will lose all your data but it is the only way to get rid of the malware. This is where maintaining regular backups comes in handy.
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This is how you can safeguard yourself against ransomware and mitigate it in case you are hit with a ransomware attack. On a final note, we would suggest not giving in to the demands of cyber criminals in case of a ransomware attack. It is better to start fresh by setting a precedent. If more people follow this approach, it will discourage cybercriminals from using these malicious methods. If you found this article helpful, let us know in the comments!
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