Protect your computer against ransomware

Todd Douds in Cyber Security 20 August, 2020

With so many people using computers and cell phones to complete daily tasks, it’s important to understand what digital threats you should be on the lookout for. Ransomware attacks, in particular, have become a common threat that holds computer files hostage until a payment is made. This malicious software is often hidden in attachments and links and can encrypt personal files or entire hard drives.

A recent SANS Institute newsletter provides key steps users can take to protect themselves from a ransomware attack:

  • Update your systems and software: Cyber criminals often infect computers or devices by taking advantage of unfixed bugs (known as vulnerabilities) in your software. The more current your software is, the fewer known vulnerabilities it has, and the harder it is for cyber criminals to infect them. Therefore, make sure your operating systems, applications, and devices have automatic updating enabled.
  • Enable anti-virus: Use up-to-date anti-virus software from a trusted vendor. Such tools are designed to detect and stop malware. However, anti-virus cannot block or remove all malicious programs, and usually it cannot recover your files after a ransomware infection. Cyber criminals are constantly innovating and developing new and more sophisticated infection tactics that can evade detection. In turn, anti-virus vendors are constantly updating their products with new capabilities to detect malware. In many ways, it has become an arms race, with both sides attempting to outwit the other.
  • Be vigilant: Cyber criminals often trick people into installing ransomware and other forms of malicious software through phishing email attacks. For example, a cybercriminal might send you an email that looks legitimate and contains an attachment or a link. Perhaps the email appears to come from your bank or a friend. However, if you open the attached file or click the link, you could activate malicious code that infects your computer. If a message creates a strong sense of urgency or seems too good to be true, it could be an attack. Be vigilant – cyber attackers play on your emotions. — Common sense is often your best defense.

Want to know another great defense against ransomware? Be sure to read this SANS Institute Newsletter.

Ransomware attacks are just one of the many ways hackers try to target private information and files. For more tips on how you can protect yourself digitally, check out our other SANS blog posts.

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