28 Jul What is Ransomware? What makes this threat so deadly?
Ransomware is a destructive type of malware wreaking havoc on both consumers and organizations worldwide. What makes this threat so deadly?
Ransomware is a malicious threat that covertly invades your computer systems with one goal – to make money through digital extortion. To do that, it locks the device’s screen or encrypts the target’s files, thereby preventing or restricting the victim from accessing the device or data. Until the ransom gets paid in bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies, it holds the system and its data hostage. Paying the ransom is risky, as it does not ensure you get the key to decrypt your system. Hence, there is high chances cybercriminals may take the money and run away with it, and worse, steal your data and sell it on the dark web.
Types of Ransomware
Ransomware comes in many variants. However, it broadly falls into two types: Crypto-ransomware and Locker ransomware.
- Crypto-ransomware: Scans your computer for valuable data, such as documents, photos, or videos. Once found, it encrypts them, rendering them unusable. Note: only the files are affected, there’s no disruption to your computer’s essential functions.
- Locker ransomware: In contrast to crypto-ransomware, it does not encrypt your computer’s files. Instead, it locks the victim out of their device. The device can restart, but all that appears on the screen is the ransom message.
In both types of attacks, either the victims pay the ransom to recover their system and data, or they would have to endure data loss. That’s why it’s vital to know how ransomware gets distributed into your system, so you won’t fall victim to these malicious actors.
Now that you know how it spreads into your system, the key is to take precautionary measures to prevent the initial infection.
We cannot stress enough that to protect yourself from ransomware is to prevent infection in the first place. In short, don’t make yourself a possible target for a ransomware attack. As such, we should avoid circumstances and habits that will enable those threat actors to prey on us. Instead, we should cultivate and uphold safe computing. Here are some recommendations that help to defend against ransomware:
- Don’t use decrepit or obsolete devices, outdated software, and devices with unpatched applications and operating systems
- Install an effective antivirus solution that delivers proactive protection against ever-evolving malware infections such as ransomware
- For optimum protection, regularly backing up your files is imperative. Save a copy of your files in two different media and one offsite such as the cloud. Just ensure your cloud storage isn’t a mapped drive in your computer. If there’s a ransomware infection in your computer, your cloud backup won’t get infected, and you can use it to recover your files
- Maintain the most up-to-date patches for your operating system and other computer programs. Vulnerable applications and operating systems are the targets of most ransomware attacks. Keep up with the most up-to-date patches reduces the number of infection vectors available to an attacker significantly
- Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments. The attachment could have embedded code that will execute the malware on your computer once you enabled your macros to open the attachment
- Don’t let anyone borrow or use your USB sticks. In the same manner, don’t borrow anyone else’s too. As your USB stick could become infected, allowing the ransomware to run once you attach it to your computer
- Avoid visiting dubious websites, as well as clicking on links included in its web content. Additionally, don’t click links on social networking and messenger platforms, especially if they come from strangers. This applies to suspicious or shady emails, too. Your computer may become infected when you carelessly click on a malicious link
- Don’t overshare personal information on your social media or to any untrusted person. Threat actors may use your identity to conduct fraudulent ways of distributing malware
- Always download applications from verified, trustworthy official sites. Avoid downloading content from unsanctioned sources
- Public Wi-Fi networks increase your computer’s vulnerability to a ransomware attack. To ensure your safety, use a secure VPN service while on public Wi-Fi
- If you have a shared household computer, create separate user accounts with the least privilege to restrict the account’s ability to install and run additional programs. Doing this may help prevent malware from executing or limit its capability to spread through your home network
Let’s Wrap Up
Ransomware keeps evolving. To keep our digital lives safe, it is crucial for us to be multiple steps ahead. Better security habits coupled with a top-notch security solution are vital steps in protecting and defending ourselves from ransomware.