So, now you understand what ransomware is, and how to be prepared so you don’t have to pay the ransom if you get attacked by it.
But, prevention is better than fixing the problem after it has occurred. Unfortunately, as with many things in security, there is no guaranteed way to protect yourself (apart from never turning on your computer or mobile device; and that’s not a helpful solution).
On the other hand, there are some things you can do to make it less likely that you will be affected.
But first, let me list some of the common ways that computers become infected with ransomware:
– Opening attachments that have malicious components
– Clicking on links, that take us to a site that infects us
* Visiting a web site and taking an action that causes an infection
– Clicking on something
(including a box that says “close” or “cancel”)
– Moving your mouse over something
One type of web site notice that is known to be likely to infect you if you respond to it is one that says you have engaged in illegal activity and law enforcement is being notified, suggesting you take action now to avoid further activity and to “click here to get details”
* Phone calls, e.g., a call from someone saying they are from an accounting or billing department and they are sending an invoice and to open it when it arrives or some other phone call that advises you to take some action. If you open the attachment when you receive it, you get infected.
* Visiting sites that can infect us just by visiting them, with no need to take any action (discussed in the daily tips). This is the most insidious method, as we can become infected despite taking precautions. Use of an ad-blocker and turning off automated functionality may protect you in some cases from some of these, but even then, there is no guarantee you can’t be infected. And turning off functionality may affect other web sites you rely on and render them inoperative.
So, what can you do to reduce your chance of becoming a victim?
I provided daily tips during National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Many of those tips included measures that, if taken, can help to protect you.
Perhaps you read those and thought, “that makes sense,” or “I’ve heard that before but….”
It might be a good idea to go back and take another look at those. (You might also wish to purchase the long versions when they become available soon.) But, they will only help you if you apply them.
So, some of the measures you can take are:
* Learn how the bad guys attack us so you can recognize attempts to victimize you
* Be cautious of e-mail attachments. Don’t open any that are suspicious. Think before opening ANY attachment and consider whether it might be one that could be dangerous.
* Be cautious about links in e-mail. Links are a useful way to refer someone to good information. But they are also used by bad guys to send you to a page that will infect your computer. Before you click on ANY link, consider whether it might be one that could be dangerous.
* Don’t respond to pop-ups, web pages, e-mails, or phone calls that try to scare you to take action or some bad result will occur. Although there may be instances where a response would be advised (an alert from the community warning you about evacuation for a coming hurricane, if you have previously signed up to receive such notifications), any unsolicited scare announcements should be regarded as suspicious.
* Set your e-mail settings to protect you, as discussed in one of the daily tips.
* Don’t use administrative accounts for normal daily usage. Restrict your account to an account that doesn’t have full control. (Discussed in one of the daily tips.)
* Use security software but don’t rely on it to keep you safe. It can block a lot of threats but none of it will detect all the threats, including ransomware threats. If security software is your only protection, you are at high risk.
* If you see a pop-up or web page that says your computer is infected or you’ve engaged in some illegal activity, don’t click the link or take the action it tells you to. If you were to do that, you may infect your computer.
* Keep your software updated (discussed in daily tips).
* Keep reading this blog and enroll in my courses when they become available. The basic course will be quite reasonably priced and will give you a lot of detailed information that will significantly help you to keep safe. Alternately, find some other source of reliable information whereby you can keep informed to protect yourself and return to it regularly.
To wrap up these posts on ransomware, at least for now, your best approach is threefold:
1) Take appropriate measures to keep yourself safe (discussed above, although these are only some of the steps needed to keep safe)
2) Have a backup that you know is reliable (don’t keep it on your computer) and either encrypt any data that is sensitive or remove it from your computer–discussed in last week’s post
(Recovery, after becoming infected)
3) Become informed and continue to keep yourself informed from a reliable source/sources