Ransomware is, unfortunately, a big cybersecurity issue that doesn’t seem likely to stop being used by hackers anytime soon. It’s a tactic that cybercriminals use against individuals, businesses, and organizations and can cause many problems for victims.
If your family is like most others, most members undoubtedly spend many hours per day online. You probably have multiple devices in the household that are internet-connected, especially if you have teenagers in your home or work from home yourself. Regardless, it’s vital to understand what ransomware is, how it works, and some ways to protect you and your family’s digital assets today and in the future.
Ransomware is the name for a type of hack used by cybercriminals to obtain money from victims and cause problems for those involved. Hackers break into computer systems and either lock people out of their devices or accounts, delete or change the data, or threaten to release details of a sensitive nature to the public if a ransom isn’t paid.
While cybercriminals say they will give access back or refrain from releasing information if they get the money they request, most don’t honor their word. Thus, even if victims pay up, this doesn’t mean they’ve got nothing more to worry about.
Ransomware is an ever-evolving and complex field that targets individuals, businesses, and organizations alike. Numerous types of ransomware have been used over the past few years, and more continue to get created. However, some of the most significant attacks to date came from varieties such as WannaCry, Bad Rabbit, RYUK, and Jigsaw.
Tips to Avoid Being Attacked by Ransomware
Happily, you can take plenty of steps to keep hackers at bay and help prevent you from having to face dealing with a ransomware attack at some stage. The first step is to ensure you utilize comprehensive security software on all your internet-enabled and connected devices. In particular, ensure you have quality ransomware protection that will work to stop this type of threat.
It’s also wise to use a firewall on your computer. Most have a firewall already pre-installed since they’re such a necessary tool, but you may need to check the settings on your computer and switch the firewall to “on” if it’s not currently enabled. Firewalls help prevent hackers from gaining access from an internet connection and are thus a helpful additional layer of defense.
Keeping all your software updated is another tip for staying safer. Hackers often utilize the gaps in security that open up in programs over time. Developers plug these gaps as they learn about them and release new editions of their products, so if you’re not running the latest editions, you leave yourself more vulnerable to attack.
You can also be proactive by trying to only use password-protected internet connections rather than public ones. Your home or office Wi-Fi needs to be locked so that only those with the correct code can access it. If you travel and need to use the internet, use a password-protected option where you get given the code for a limited time, such as in a hotel or coffee shop. Even then, try not to log into accounts where possible, just in case hackers are monitoring the network and looking to capture login details.
Furthermore, avoid using other people’s computers, especially those in internet cafes, if you can, as you never know how these have been set up and if they’re infected with malware that logs your keystrokes as you use the machines.
You also want to set up hard-to-crack passwords on your devices, so other people can’t use the machines if they’re lost or stolen. The same goes for all the accounts you log into – choose long codes made up of eight characters with a mixture of symbols, numbers, and upper-case and lower-case letters.
Another tip is to back up your data frequently to the cloud or some other reliable external source so that if you do get stung by a ransomware attack at home, you have your information accessible elsewhere. Plus, learn about some of the most common strategies cybercriminals use to break into systems and teach your family members about online safety.
For instance, many hackers send phishing emails whereby they pretend to be writing from a real, reputable firm (such as a bank or telecommunications provider) when they’re just trying to get your account login details or other sensitive information. Don’t open attachments when you’re unsure of the source, and be wary of clicking on attention-grabbing, salacious headlines on social media sites, as these are often used to get people clicking on malware-infected links.
The more steps you take to stay safe, the less risk you and your family will face regarding ransomware threats. Spending time and effort today to ward off attackers is well worth the investment.