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How to Protect Your Files From Ransomware

MOVE OVER VIRUSES! Stop wallowing in worms, Ransomware is the star of the show and won’t let up. Ransomware is the cyberattack of choice, ranging from destroying entire fuel pipelines to stealing hospital networks. You face the potential disaster of losing access to your most sensitive files. However, you must also decide whether you are willing to pay hard cash for access. If you do get access,

That’s where the name comes from–ransomware attacks literally hold your data for ransom. Although there are many variations of this theme, it is usually quite recognizable. Malware is used to encrypt your files (in some cases even double-encrypt them) so they require a specific key to be unlocked. This can spread quickly to other computers and networks. You might find yourself locked out of your computer and any other networks connected to it.

Ransomware is easy to create and deploy. It’s also very profitable. Although it was initially a problem only for home users, ransomware has become a serious problem for businesses. Recently, several high-profile attacks on government agencies and infrastructure companies have been reported. It is a real threat, no matter who you may be. So how can you protect yourself?

Ransomware removal isn’t much different from keeping other types of malware away from your computer. There are very similar rules. Ransomware attacks can only occur if you have access to your computer. This is often done through a rogue program. If you aren’t sure of the source, be cautious about opening files downloaded from the internet or via email.

Hackers use social engineering techniques to trick you into downloading attachments or installing things you don’t need. If you receive an unexpected email, think twice before you open or run anything on your computer.

Windows and macOSSCREENSHOT: DAVID NIELD VIA MICROSOFT

Ransomware does not always need to trick you into installing it. It can also spread by exploiting security gaps in legitimate software that was not properly updated or patched. This is why you should avoid installing any new software on your computer. Instead, stick with trusted developers who can keep your applications safe and provide security updates promptly.

You should install those annoying operating system updates. Software updates are essential to security and can be done automatically or in the background by most programs. Google Chrome downloads updates automatically. You’ll see a colored icon in your toolbar when you need to upgrade. It gets closer to red when the upgrade becomes more urgent.

You will need to have quality security software on your computer. Although it isn’t clear whether the built-in tools in Windows and macOS are sufficient to protect you from malware threats (including ransomware), they do a lot to keep them at bay.

You can also add third-party software to your protection. Leading software packages such as McAfee and Norton will monitor everything on your system. It is up to you to decide if the additional protection is worth the additional cost (and the extra software configurations) that you’ll need.

Dropbox Rewind can roll back your files to an earlier time. SCREENSHOT: DAVID NIELD VIA DROPBOX

Ransomware targets systems and files, but bad actors with the right usernames and passwords can also access files stored in the cloud and encrypt them. Strong passwords should be different for each account. This is done through a password manager. Two-factor authentication means that an additional (such as a code sent by or generated by your smartphone) must be used to log into your accounts.

The third part of keeping yourself protected against ransomware is to make sure you back up your computer and other devices regularly. As long as you have backups of your files, an external hard drive, or a cloud-based synchronization service, they will all work as long as the ransomware attack is not in reach.

This last caveat is important. You’ll have to use encrypted backups if your backup is in easy reach of the malware program locking your files. You should make sure that at least one backup is connected to your main computer, and that any backup solution has a revision history so you can get back to the time before the attack occurred.

When it comes to cloud backup solutions, many now offer file versioning features (Dropbox Rewind, for example)–they roll back your files to a previous point in time, which can be really useful in the event of a ransomware attack, because it means you’re able to revert to the state your data was in before it got encrypted. For more information, check with the service provider.

Although it is impossible to protect yourself 100% against ransomware, the steps described here can help. If the worst should happen, remember that ransomware is a crime, and you can report it via the resources mentioned on the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency website

 

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