Ransomware has been around for almost as long as consumer use of the Internet. This type of malicious software can be deployed to attack businesses as well as individuals. In some cases, there is more than one reason behind the attack. In order to properly prepare yourself for a potential ransomware attack, it pays to understand a bit about the nature of this type of malware, what it can do, and how you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.
Understanding the Nature of Ransomware
Ransomware is an infection that either limits or completely blocks access to your operating system or the programs running on that system. The malware is designed to circumvent the protections that you have on the drive and essentially take over the system. It’s only after you comply with any demands issued by the originator that you are able to regain control of the system.
What’s the Purpose of a Ransomware Attack?
The most common purpose of any is to extort money from the victim. In exchange for remitting whatever sum the originator demands, you are supplied with a code or other resource that is supposed to remove the block and restore full access to your system and files. There are some forms of ransomware that don’t actually go away. Instead, they go dormant until an antivirus update finds and eliminates the malware, or they reactivate later so the originator can demand more money.
A second and less common purpose is to temporarily gain access to your data and utilize it while your access is blocked. In this application, extorting money is a bonus. The real payoff is copying proprietary data that can be sold to third parties. In some cases, the focus may be on altering the data so it’s no longer accurate.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Ransomware Attacks?
There are several things you can do to protect yourself from ransomware attacks and reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Most of them are things you would want to do in order to keep your system free of any type of malware.
You definitely need to invest in higher quality antivirus protection. It’s not enough to buy and install the program. It needs to be running at all times. You also need to download and install updates when and as they become available. If you leave your system up around the clock, make sure the software is set to download and install those updates automatically. Otherwise, check for updates at least twice a week. If there are any, install them at once.
Another important aspect of protecting your system is to stop using operating systems that are no longer supported by the original manufacturers. When that support ends, there are no more security updates issued. While you may still be protected from older threats, you can bet that the newer ones will exploit any weaknesses in the aging system. Even if it means replacing a printer or some other ancillary device, the change to a new and more robust operating system is worth it.
You also want to back up your data on a regular basis. Daily is a good idea for a business of any size. Even individuals should back up data at least once or twice a week. The goal is to ensure that there is a minimum amount of data lost if you are the victim of a ransomware attack. Instead of paying the ransom, you can remove the old hard drive, install an operating system, and then load the last copy of the data onto the new drive.
There is more you can do, like making sure email attachments are scanned before you open them, and keeping your browser and any plug-ins updated. Have a professional check your current setup and determine how to improve the defenses. Doing so will minimize the potential for becoming a victim of ransomware and possibly having data lost or stolen.