Ransomware – Don’t Be A Victim
In this article I want to provide a few tips on how to avoid falling victim to ransomware. These aren’t foolproof and it is not a comprehensive list so on top of all these tips you need to exercise caution and judgement when on the internet.
1. Anti-Virus is Essential
While anti-virus software alone may not completely secure your system it will help to stop known viruses from infecting your system. If you are a home user you can opt to use some of the free offerings out there such as Avira or AVG. If you are particularly worried about your system becoming infected you can instead decide to go for the paid versions. These will generally offer a wider range of security products bundled into one. Personally, I use Kaspersky Total Security to protect my desktop, laptop and phone.
If you are looking to protect a business environment, especially if you have any more than 5 computers, you will want to look at business grade, paid-for, anti-virus applications. Again, Kaspersky has a great offering for business. This includes an option for centrally managed anti-virus using the Kaspersky Security Center to manage Kaspersky Endpoint Protection. AVG, ESET and some other popular anti-virus applications have a similar offering.
2. Anti-Malware is Recommended
I highly recommend Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. You can install the free version for on-demand scans. However, this does not provide active protection. For real-time protection you need to purchase the Pro option. This will monitor your system and block potentially dangerous applications and websites.
3. Keep Up-To-Date
You must ensure that any anti-virus and anti-malware applications both on your server, if in a business situation, and on desktops and laptops is up-to-date. The latest database updates will contain virus definitions which allow the software to block newly discovered viruses or malware. You should also keep up-to-date with updates for your operating system, be it Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. Both companies will release hot-fixes for security flaws that are exposed over time.
4. Be Suspicious of Everything
It is better to be overly cautious, even to the point of paranoia, when it comes to using the internet. Whilst the majority of users mean no harm there is always a chance that a website will contain links which will infect your computer. Make sure you check out where the link is taking you. There are a few ways to protect yourself when you are browsing the web.
If you hover your mouse cursor over a link you will see where it is actually going to take you. This information will normally be displayed at the bottom of your web browser. Always check that this is taking you to a website that you expect before clicking the link.
5. Firewall Your Network
You should not leave your system vulnerable to outside attackers. This is particularly important in a business situation but can also be implemented in a home environment if need be. You should have a high quality firewall in between your network and the internet. This will help to stop most attempts to breach your network. No system will be 100% effective but if you buy a known brand and implement it correctly you should at least block 99.9% of attempts to get in. If you are worried about your network security it is worth consulting a network security professional to check whether you need to improve the security.
6. 3-2-1 Backup Plan
Back up your files! You should implement a 3-2-1 backup plan. This means you have 3 copies of your data; the live data, a local backup and and off-site backup. You should have 2 different types of media; for example a USB hard drive for local backups and online backup for off-site. Finally, you should have at least 1 off-site backup. There you have the 3-2-1 backup plan. Making sure that you have an effective backup solution is essential just in case you do end up with a compromised system. It is far easier and cheaper to restore files from a few hours or even a day before the corruption than it is to lose all of your data or have to rely on the hackers to provide a decryption algorithm!
7. Education, Education, Education
Lastly, and perhaps most important, you need to educate anyone who will have access to your files or your network on how to avoid falling victim to ransomware.
This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many other ways to protect yourself online but the main idea you should take away from this article is to browse smart. If you think hard before you click you might just avoid a costly recovery process for your data.