A quick guide to ransomware (and how to stop it)

Today’s news about cybersecurity and data breaches can be quite scary.

You’re probably well aware that not just computer viruses, but also malware and spyware, along with employee negligence, can lead to data corruption, data theft, and even a complete loss of data.

And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, your data can also be held for ransom.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a sophisticated piece of malware that a hacker can install on your system via fake websites,downloads or email attachments.

For example, suppose an employee is seeking to download an update to a software application. (Or, even though it shouldn’t be on company time, a cute cate video.) If the employee isn’t careful, he or she may wind up visiting a cleverly designed site that actually mimics the actual site they meant to visit.

And when that employee clicks the link to download a file, they might actually download the malware that automatically inserts itself into the system.

This can also be achieved via links in emails, which are harder to spot. Many hackers send emails with links in them designed to entice the receiver to click. This is somewhat similar to phishing, but instead of giving up personal information, clicking the link results in downloading the malware.

Once the ransomware is installed on the system, it’s just a matter of time.

The system may start running slower, and you may have difficulty accessing large amounts of files and data. You’re likely to get some kind of message demanding money in order to restore your data.

While the majority of those hit by ransomware attacks are healthcare and government organizations, many others have fallen victim to the data seizure scheme. Ransomware attacks are rising significantly, targeting large international organizations, major corporations and small businesses alike.

How to avoid or stop a ransomware attack

The best way to stop a ransomware attack is to ensure you have sufficient security protocols in place. Also, be smart when checking email, browsing the Internet, and download files.

There are several key steps you can take that will significantly reduce the risk of a ransomware infection.

1. Update your computers and system software

There plenty of reasons to update your computer systems, both in the office and at home. One of the most important reasons is improved security.

Hackers take advantage of gaps in older technology to infect a computer with spyware or malware. Keeping your computers and their system software up to date provides improved security.

2. Utilize reliable virus protection software and firewalls

It cannot be stressed enough. While no virus protection is ever 100% foolproof, using a strong application will prevent many threats from getting through to your system.

And make sure it’s consistently updated.

3. Backup your data

Backing up your data on a consistent basis ensures that you won’t lose your data in the event of a system crash, virus, or natural disaster, such as a flood or a fire.

While you can store backups locally, it’s recommended to also back up data via the cloud to an offsite and secure location.

If you do get attacked by ransomware, there will be no need for you to pay the ransom. You can simply restore your system and data via the backups.

4. Keep an infected computer separate from others

Once you realize a particular computer has been infected, disconnect it from the network.

It’s possible the ransomware has already spread to other computers, but preventative measures may help isolate the threat.

5. Retain the services of an experienced cybersecurity team

Ransomware can be extremely difficult to remove. If you do get hit with a ransomware attack, a team of experienced professionals can assist you in identifying and eliminating the threat.

And no one knows preventative protection like the pros!