Ever wondered what a ransomware attack is all about? You might have heard the term on news or in your office or you might have seen in a pop-up saying ransomware infection warning. Well, What is a ransomware attack? Ransomeware also called ransom malware, is a cyber attack that stops users from accessing their systems, files, etc. The cyber attackers demand ransom money in order to provide you access to your own systems. They use encryption to hold data and redeliver the access of files or systems only if the ransom is paid.
Thus a ransomware attack is dangerous and could leave no option to counter-attack it, except preventing yourself from not falling into the trap. If you are curious to learn what this ransomware attack is and tips to protect yourself from this dangerous cyber-attack, you are at the right place.
Let’s discuss in-depth about the tips to reduce the risk of a ransomware attack. In order to prevent and protect yourself or your business from a ransomware attack, firstly you need to know how the malware enters your PCs. Beware of suspicious links you receive on emails from unverified senders and stay away from untrusted links and ads on any website. The more the vulnerabilities in your system, the more is the risk of a ransomware attack. So, here are precautions you should take in order to prevent yourself and your company from being attacked by ransomware.
Tips to Reduce Risk
Never open all your emails
The cyberattackers use multiple ways to send the harmful malware to your computers. The most common way is through emails. Do not view or download email attachments from suspicious senders. Double check the email senders and the attachments. The attachments include PDFs, Word documents etc. Check if the email address is correct and inform your team to be careful about the issue. Also do not open attachments if they ask you to enable macros. As running malicious macros will take away the control over your system, better not to open such untrusted attachments enabling macros. If you fail staying away from such malicious attachments, you may end up providing full access to those hackers.
Do not click on suspicious links
The other way to prevent your files and data from skipping into the hands of cyber attackers is avoiding clicking on spam links. Here you might get a question ‘How can we know if it is a spam link?’. Well, it is difficult to identify the normal and spam links as some legitimate websites have these malicious links unknowingly. So, never click on any links if you find them suspicious. Because if it seems suspicious, it might be suspicious and you might end up as the victim. Also, never visit websites that appear as spam sites. They may automatically redirect you to some other malicious sites which read, hold your data and take control over it.
Once they encrypt and hold your data, they reach you demanding some ransom amount to unlock the access and recover the data. In most of the situations, victims fall under this trap and end up paying but fail to recover the data. After all, they are untrusted attackers and there is no guarantee that they will give you access to your systems. So, the right and only way is to protect your system from the attack.
Stay cautious of your downloads
In order to shut the doors for the cyberattackers, the other thing you need to take care of is your downloads. Be aware of what is happening in your system. Avoid downloading any files and software from untrusted websites. Only visit and download files from reputed sites and sites which have https in the url.
Say ‘no’ to giving personal info
What do you do if someone from the ‘X’ organization calls you to inquire about your information? Yes, this is one of the tricky ways cyber criminals use to find out loopholes and vulnerabilities of your security system. Act smart by not giving any personal data or any information of your company to strangers. They send texts, emails and call you asking you personal info, simply ignore and inform your security personnel and alert your team to stay aware of these issues.
If you are not sure the call is really spam, you can directly contact the company and verify if it is genuine. But do not risk sharing your data before verification.
Stay away from unfamiliar USBs
If you do not know where the USBs came from, better avoid using them. Do not insert unfamiliar storage devices into your devices. If the devices like USBs or pen drives etc. are infected with malware, your PC will also get infected. If those devices are wantedly infected with ransomware by cyber criminals, you will end by playing a victim.
Make use of scanning & filtering by mail servers
Use mail server content filtering and scanning in order to prevent spam emails entering your inbox. There are multiple free and paid anti-spam tools that protect your mailbox from harmful emails, attachments and spam links.
Always update your OS & software with newest versions
If you have some security software in your computer, make sure you update them regularly. The software security teams work on updating the software based on new security patches and closes the security holes of vulnerable applications frequently. So ensure you update them accordingly challenging the cybercriminals.
Protect your systems with VPN
When using public wi-fi without activating a VPN, your system is more exposed to cyber attacks. To prevent ransomware attacks, use a secure VPN and proceed with any confidential transactions. This in turn is a useful measure to prevent your system from ransomware.
Install security software
In recent years, the ransomware attack has become wildly popular, hence the internet security solutions came into existence. To protect your systems from malicious malware, use such anti-malware solutions. These software prevent your system from downloading or streaming infected websites or files.
Also, update the security software most frequently to gain the highest level of protection from harmful ransomware attacks.
Backup all necessary data
Whether you have a threat of ransomware attack or not, you must always have your data backup. In case when you experience a cyber attack, you will have all your data in backup that reduces the downtime of your business. But make sure you plug out the external storage device after the backup. You can store the data on cloud services or on external devices frequently. These will help you retrieve your previous unencrypted versions, in case your data is encrypted by ransomware. Keep reminders to backup your data frequently or enable automatic backup to prevent loss of your useful data.
Steps to taken after ransomware cyber attack
What if your computer or important data is already infected by ransomware? First thing, do not panic. The focus point of ransomware attack is the attackers hold your data, lock your screen denying access to you. They demand some amount and promise to unlock the access in return. If the data is so important the only option you could see is paying them. But remember, do not pay them. If you pay them, indirectly you are encouraging them to infect other organizations or your organisation once more. Moreover, encouraging such activities also count as a crime. It is never late to act smart…
So, here are a few steps you need to take when you realize your systems are attacked by ransomware.
Quarantine your system
Disconnect your computer from any other devices, networks and the internet. This minimizes chances of spreading infection to other networks.
Run security scan
Your system might run slowly due to malware, shut down it, restart it and run your internet security software. If it identifies any spam or suspicious files, remove them immediately.
Decrypt your data
If you find that your computer is attacked with some encryption malware, there are tools to decrypt your data and files -install them and use. These decrypt your data and help you regain access.
Restore from backup
Restore your files from backup done on cloud storage or any other external hard disks. If you haven’t done any backup, you will lose all your data.
Report the incident
Report to the cybercrime department about the issue, if it seems more serious. Do not get ready to pay them the money or negotiate with them. Remember they lose your trust in the first instance by stealing your access, you cannot trust them again. And Moreover in most of the cases the attackers did not redeliver the access.
Though the risk of ransomware cyber attack is high, taking necessary interventions will help you escape from the risk. So if you are an owner of any business(no matter what the scale is) dealing with important data, teach your employees how to protect their systems from being attacked by malware and educate them how to respond in case of any cyber attack. In such ways you will reduce the risk of any kind of malware attacks in your company.