How to Protect Yourself from a Ransomware AttackTECH
How to Protect Yourself from a Ransomware Attack
Ransomware is an increasing threat for computer owners around the world and in 2016, cost over $1 billion in damages. Ransomware programs like the Locky virus, TeslaCrypt, Petya, CryptoWall, SamSam and many others infiltrate computers, encrypt data on the hard drive, and then demand a ransom for the contents. In many cases, these programs are deliberately designed to encrypt data that is potentially fiscally or emotionally valuable such as photos, documents, and videos.
Unfortunately, paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee the return of your data, especially if the hacker didn’t create the program they are using. In other cases, your data may also still be at risk once you get it back, as hackers upload information to deep web repositories, where they are used for identity theft and hacking. In short, your best protection against a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Luckily, there are numerous steps that you can take to prevent a ransomware attack and to protect your data, and many of them are affordable or even free.
Backup Your Data
Most ransomware attacks rely on the fact that you only have one copy of your data and that it is permanently lodged on your computer hard drive. Unfortunately, computer hard drives are not the safest place for your data anyway and they are prone to failure, you may lose your information if you get a virus, and an accident such as a power surge or an untimely spill with a glass of water could permanently destroy your data. For these and other reasons, you should do your best to ensure that any valuable data is backed up in at least one other location. It’s also extremely affordable to back up your data. Western Digital sells “MyBook” hard drives in 2 and 4 TB models which you can purchase for $80-$180. These drives will back up every computer in your house and will store as much data as you have. You can also choose a smaller or larger drive depending on your own preference.
How often should you back up your computer? You can plug it in and allow it to automatically back up once a day or once a week. However, you can also choose to simply copy all of your important information once a week or so without making a physical backup of your entire computer.
By ensuring that you have another copy of any important data on your computer, you ensure that if you are hit with a ransomware attack, you won’t have to pay up to get your data back.
Banking Information and Passwords – You should never keep your banking data on your computer. Data on your computer is an easy target for hackers, malware programs that distribute information to the deep web, is often available on networks, and can be recovered from a hard drive if you sell the computer. However, most of us can’t remember everything reliably and it can be difficult to keep track of slips of paper. Luckily, USB flash drives are very affordable, easy to store, and much easier to keep track of than sticky notes. A decent flash drive starts at just over $5, will last for 5 years or more, and will reliably store your banking data. More importantly, all you have to do to access it is plug it into whatever computer you are using at the time.
What are your options? We recommend this SanDisk Cruzer 16GB Low Profile USB Flash Drive for just $9.30. You can also choose a smaller drive, but it won’t cost much less.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Your computer software including browsers, Java, Adobe, and all of your apps or programs present your largest computer vulnerabilities. By ensuring that you update your apps and your computer each time an update is available, you mitigate vulnerabilities to ensure that you are as safe as possible.
Most computers allow you to set up automatic updates. While this can be inconvenient, it is the best way to ensure that your computer is always up to date and that you get any patches or vulnerabilities as quickly as possible.
Use an Antivirus
In most cases, a free antivirus is a great solution that will give you enough protection for your computer. Because most paid models only offer additional services like customer support or slightly better virus scanning, you don’t actually have to pay if you don’t want to. An antivirus program will alert you when downloading potentially compromised files, may catch a ransomware program as it is being downloaded, and may actually stop a ransomware attack in its tracks. There are some differences between free and premium antivirus programs, and you may want a premium version if you need additional support or are very concerned about the safety of the data on your computer.
Use an Anti Ransomware Tool
There are multiple anti-ransomware tools that you can use to specifically defend yourself from ransomware attacks. While many of them are free, some are premium, and some are included in premium Antivirus programs.
Click through to page 4 to view our top 10 list of the best free anti-ransomware software.