Ransomware has been in the news a lot lately and a lot of people may be asking how to prevent ransomware. So I wanted to talk about my experience with it and 4 ways to protect yourself.
What is ransomware?
If you do not already know and some how found this page then the simple answer is ransomware is a class of viruses or malware that holds your computer and data hostage. It does this by encrypting your data then demands payment before it will give the data back to you.
How does ransomware get on your computer?
There are a lot of ways ransomware can get on your computer. It can come from an e-mail attachment, a bad website, infected advertisements on a website, and it can even come from exploits in core network protocols like SMB. There are probably some ways we have not even thought about yet. But below are 4 easy steps that will increase your odds of not falling prey to ransomware.
4 Ways to Prevent Ransomware
1. Update your software.
One of the biggest entry points for malware including ransomware is old browser plugins, browsers and other software that connect to the internet. I cannot even count the number of times I have seen someone get a virus through an old java or adobe flash plugin. It got so bad at one point I just started uninstalling flash and java from every computer I touched.
This brings me to another point. If you don’t use software like java anymore then uninstall it from your computer. There is no reason to be carrying around software you don’t use. Even more so when it can be exploited to gain access to your computer.
You may think your safe because you never go to shady websites? Well, you would be wrong. Lots of big websites that should be safe have been highjacked in the past and have served out malware to unsuspecting visitors. The New York Times is a good example of this.
So, turn on your auto updaters or set prompts to be reminded to update. Also, make sure your operating system is up to date. The latest round of ransomware did not even work on the latest build of Windows 10.
You can also try some tools to scan your computer and update your software. Here is a list of some in no particular order.
2. Get Antivirus
If you do not already have an antivirus then get something. If something does manage to get in your system then at least you have a chance to stop it. But no antivirus is perfect and what is good this year may not be so good next year. It is an arms race between the malware makers and the malware fighters. So I would encourage you to do your own research on this topic. But I don’t want to leave you in the dark so I will list some I have used to start you off.
Malwarebytes is one of my go to tools. I have used it to clean many computers at work. It is free to do the manual scans but for real time protection you have to pay.
Bitdefender has tons of good reviews and recomendations.
AVG is another one I have used a lot in the past and have suggested it to people. They have a free option as well so you can try it out.
Avast may be another one to check out. It has a free option and I have IT friends who love it but I have not used it myself personally.
3. Use your brain.
No matter how good your security is the weak point will always be the person using the computer. Everything can be setup perfect but if you decide to open that weird e-mail attachment from a person you don’t know or download and run that software you never heard of from the internet then no amount of updating or firewalls will be able to protect you for long.
My Dad had a saying he used to tell me when I was learning to drive. He always told me to assume everyone on the road is an idiot. Some people call this defensive driving. To always be ready for someone to do something stupid. I kind of think of being on the internet the same way. If I get a random e-mail or get asked to go to some weird looking link I make it a habit to be skeptical about it. If you don’t know what it is for then you probably don’t need it anyway.
4. Have a good backup.
Last but not least. If all else fails make sure you have a good backup of your data. Where I work has been hit with ransomware in the past. I spent 8 hours restoring data to get everything back up and running. If we did not have a good backup we would have lost years of work and possibly millions of dollars. Or we could have paid the ransom and hoped the crooks would keep their word to restore the data. I would never ever ever suggest paying the ransom! People that pay just encourage the thieves to keep doing their dirty work. If you have a good backup then you should never have to pay for your own data.
I have written another post on the backup software I personally use. If you do not have anything already I would highly suggest it.