Ransomware, the cyber threat that’s crippling businesses around the world, is also a concern for consumers. Cyber criminals are eager to take down any computer, whether located at the office or in somebody’s living room. In fact, this pervasive cybercrime is a favorite among thugs because it’s financially lucrative to them. While not recommended by security experts, victims are indeed paying ransoms with Bitcoins or other online currency for their locked or encrypted files because, quite simply, they want their photos, financial data and family records – basically their whole life – back to its original, pristine digital state.
Here’s how to avoid a ransomware ruckus:
5 Steps to Preventing Ransomware on Home Computers
- Use computer security with antivirus and URL blocking. The number one step for preventing ransomware is to use security software that includes both antivirus protection and URL blocking. Most ransomware traps are set in fake shipping notices, parking tickets and other spam emails that lure people into clicking URLs that are contaminated with ransomware. In fact, these bogus emails are now considered “designer malware,” created to look 100 percent real, complete with authentic logos, as well as correct spelling, grammar and vernacular. What’s not to click? The pairing of antivirus and URL blocking together gets to the heart of where ransomware lurks, detecting and blocking suspicious activity before people click on it.
- Back up data. Seems like a no brainer, but backing up all home computers to the cloud or an external drive will make people better prepared, if attacked. They can restore data to its previous state without paying cybercriminals to unlock files. Plus, backing up protects users from any unfortunate accidents, in addition to ransomware, including lost or stolen laptops, fire and burglary.
- Patch early, patch often. While Macintosh computers are vulnerable, Windows PCs are primary ransomware targets. Patch and update Windows operating systems and applications on a regular basis. There’s been a 1990s-like resurgence of Office exploits because, despite patches being available, people are not updating their computers and cybercriminals know this. Yes, they do. In addition to keeping Office and Windows patched, it is important to keep all applications up to date, especially your web browser, PDF reader and video plugins.
- Set scans to run automatically. Another no brainer, but run regular scans of all computers on the home network. Embedded dormant botnet malware with a general purpose upgrade command could allow cyber crooks to update, replace or add to the malware already on home PCs.
- Don’t click sketchy attachments. According to researchers, many ransomware strains, like Locky, infect victims through malicious email attachments. Be cautious about clicking on unsolicited attachments. Crooks rely on this dilemma: people shouldn’t open a document until they’re sure it’s something they want, but can’t tell until it’s opened. They’re also using very clever social engineering tactics to compel people to open attachments. If in doubt, leave it out.
What should home users do, if they’re attacked by ransomware?
- Don’t be tempted to pay. You’re only funding criminal activity
- Check that your operating system and anti-virus are up-to-date, do a full scan and then restore your files from a backup. You did have a backup, right?
- If you don’t have a backup, consider whether you can recover your files cloud-based services, such as Goggle Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive