‘Ransomware’ is any virus that infects a computer, encrypts files and threatens to render them useless unless the victim pays money for a key code that decrypts the information. Some of the most famous ransomware viruses are known as Crypto viruses. Examples include CryptoLocker – which was considered to be one of the biggest IT security threats of 2013 – CryptoWall, TorrentLocker, CryptoDefense, and the list goes on.
Ransomware viruses typically demand that ransom be paid in the form of bitcoins, digital currency that is difficult to trace. But remember, paying the ransom by no means ensures that you’ll get your files back. We are dealing with criminals, after all.
The key to avoiding or, if necessary, defeating a ransomware infection is to be vigilant and prepared. Here are five quick tips for avoiding or overcoming a ransomware infection:
1. Use extreme caution when clicking on links inside of email
Ransomware viruses are often spread by malicious HTML links found inside emails. Attackers use email “phishing” techniques to trick people into thinking that the email is coming from a trusted sender. The victim believes the link will take them to a safe website. But instead it leads to a malicious site designed to spread ransomware. If you’re going to click on a link inside of an email, make sure you’re absolutely certain who the email is coming from.
2. Beware of email attachments
It’s not just the links inside emails that you need to worry about. You also have to be extremely careful when clicking on email attachments. That’s why you should never, ever click on an attachment from an unknown sender. Even if you think you know the sender, you should still be careful. While some malicious emails are easy to spot, attackers are getting smarter all the time and will use every trick in the book to ensure that you are fooled. For example, some emails may look like a harmless request from a business partner, or a notification from your bank. Do your best to confirm that the email is valid and safe before opening on any attachment.
3. Keep your firewall and security software up to date
Check regularly to make sure your firewall and antivirus software are updated and working properly. While security software vendors can’t guarantee complete protection, updated security software and firewall protection is the first line of defense. Security vendors do their best to spot and remove phishing attempts and are often effective. But keep in mind that new threats pop up all the time.
4. Set clear information security policies and educate users
Education is key – especially in business environments. If you want to protect your business from ransomware, it’s important to set clear information security policies related to emails, links, and attachments. Then communicate the policies to employees regularly. Educate employees about the threat of ransomware, and the importance of remaining vigilant when it comes to email.
5. Back up your files!
While all of the tips provided so far may be somewhat effective, none of them are foolproof. That means you need to be prepared to deal with a ransomware infection if it happens. The answer is to back up your files regularly. It’s a surefire “Plan B” should efforts to protect against ransomware viruses ever fail. Creating backups of home computers and business servers is a must.
The best backup system is one that work automatically in the background. It’s also important to have use a backup solution that that can be rolled back to a specific date. That will allow you to effectively go back in time before infection occurred and retrieve clean versions of your files.
The good news is that Carbonite can do all of this and more.
For more information on how to protect yourself from ransomware, download our free ransomware preparedness guide today.