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Safe and Secure: Protecting Systems Against the Threat of Ransomware

Protection against ransomware is becoming more important. The sudden outbreak of the global pandemic prompted a drastic shift into the digital landscape. Daily operations such as work and schooling transitioned from face-to-face to online interactions.

Along with this shift, the need for cybersecurity has also increased. As more data and information are being exchanged online, it also opens more opportunities for cybercrimes to be committed. Ransomware, in particular, has become the most prevalent type of cybercrime in the past year.

Anti-ransomware Measures

Ransomware functions under a fairly simple premise. Cybercriminals hijack computer systems which will allow them access to essential files and documents. They then replace these files with encrypted copies and demand payment from their victims. Once the ransom has been paid, attackers provide their victims with the key to decrypt and release their files.

Breaches involving ransomware will usually require some form of end-user interaction. This means that a ransomware program is executed only when a user clicks on an unverified link, opens a malicious email attachment, or inserts an unfamiliar USB. In this sense, ransomware should be easy to mitigate if users practice proper awareness. Follow these recommendations for ransomware prevention.

Always Have a Backup

Data will typically be safe and sound if there are proper backup solutions in place. This will provide users with an extra layer of security against most types of cyberattacks. Having backups will also make it easier for users to identify which files have been encrypted if the ransomware has already been executed.

Users need to ensure that their backups are stored offsite. Purchasing an external hard drive is one of the more common solutions. Consider investing in a cloud server for files as well. Cloud storage allows users to revert files to their previous versions, making it easier for encrypted files to be decrypted.

Scan and Filter Mail

Ransomware can usually infect a computer or device through an email attachment. Avoid opening emails from senders that seem untrustworthy. Make sure to always double-check whether a sender’s email address is correct and do the due diligence of checking if an attachment is legitimate.

An easy way of achieving all of this is to install software that can perform content scanning and filter emails. This will guarantee that any email or links potentially infected with some form of malware won’t make it to a user’s inbox.

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Limit Access

Avoid giving out personal information to an untrusted source. This could come in the form of phone calls, texts, or emails. Cybercriminals usually use sensitive personal data to lure users into opening an infected link or attachment that will execute the ransomware.

Sync and share solutions have become common, especially in light of the current pandemic. If sharing files and data is part of a usual operation, like for work or school, make sure to restrict access to only the necessary people.

A Culture of Security

In the digital age, it’s important for people to practice and foster a stronger culture of cybersecurity. Always ensure that all software and operating systems are up-to-date, especially security software. Doing so will help to eliminate vulnerabilities and significantly reduce the risk of an attack.

Be wary when going out and using public Wi-Fi connections. This makes systems more vulnerable to malware attacks. Users should avoid making important exchanges or sending sensitive data when on public Wi-Fi. If it’s extremely necessary, consider using a VPN to make the connection more secure.

Trusted Sites

A user should be able to determine whether a site is verified and secure fairly easily. Most websites that use “https” instead of “http” are usually considered to be safe. Certain symbols, like a shield or lock, that also appear on the address bar of a browser can serve as a marker of trust.

Always be wary of these elements when visiting a particular web page. Sites that lack these determining features are typically compromised and contain some type of malware. A simple misclick from an unverified site can quickly infect a computer or other devices.

Prevention Rather Than Payment

The theft of personal data and intellectual property was considered to be the most prevalent type of cybercrime in previous years. The outbreak of the global pandemic, along with other factors, has prompted ransomware cases to skyrocket. Ransomware has since become the biggest type of cybercrime being committed today.

The victim count for ransomware has been found to have been at least 2,354 in the previous year alone. This includes government entities, healthcare organizations, and even schools on the list. The average ransom for encrypted files has also increased $178,000 from $112,00 in 2019, which is why most cybercriminals have resulted in this type of cybercrime.

Consulting digital professionals still stands to be the most effective way of responding to a ransomware attack. However, the pandemic has made it particularly challenging for these specialists to provide assistance when necessary.

In some instances, victims fail to recover or decrypt their files even after paying the ransom that cybercriminals set. While more sophisticated technologies and strategies are being developed and adopted to combat this threat, preventing an attack remains to guarantee the most protection.

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