The last couple of years have seen an increase in the number and sophistication of ransomware attacks aimed at businesses, utilities, government agencies and individual computer users. Usually avoidable, these attacks have caused millions of dollars’ worth of reported damage. The amount of unreported damage they have caused can only be guessed.
Several high-profile attacks this year, such as WannaCry in March or Petya in June, were based on Windows exploits discovered by the NSA and released by a group of hackers called the Shadow Brokers. Although newsworthy, these attacks were neither well timed or well designed and both were stopped relatively quickly. The WannaCry attack, as flawed as it was, gained the hackers approximately $140,000 worth of bitcoins to stop individual attacks.
Even if the success of these attacks can be disputed, the potential disaster and very real threat of follow on attacks cannot be denied. The media and tech journals have already called attention to the deficiencies in cyber security at all levels of use. Individuals, corporations and government computers are at risk and not enough is being done to maintain your computer’s security.
There are numerous programs that can help you prevent ransomware from attacking your computer. However, if these measures aren’t followed or updated, they can be worse than useless because you believe you are protected and engage in risky behavior.
1. Update your operating system and anti-viral protection programs. Don’t miss or delay adding security updates. Many of the exploits that form the basis of ransomware attacks can be countered once they are detected. Until you update your OS and virus protection, these counters are not viable on your system.
2. Backup your data. Regular and frequent backups both on your system, an external hard drive and to a cloud storage location can keep your data safe even if you are infected.
3. Remove outdated and infrequently used plugins and add-ons from your browser. Ransomware can exploit old or outdated programs to introduce malware to your system. Many of these plugins can be removed completely or activated on an “as needed” basis.
4. Use an ad-blocker. Malicious software can be introduced into your system through ads. Blocking them may make some websites run a little funny, but better that than creating an environment for ransomware attacks.
5. Use common sense when looking at emails. Don’t open emails from unknown senders. Never download attachments or click embedded links in spam email.
Individual responsibility and corporate security
The biggest problem concerning computer security, today, is that although preventive measures are very effective at stopping or, at least, blunting attacks, they are not being followed as stringently as required. The easiest way to prevent ransomware from hijacking your computer is to avoid sites and attachments that may contain malware and to backup your data on a frequent and regular basis.
Although it sounds simple, the number of attacks – successful or not – following WannaCry illustrates how lax corporate and individual safekeeping measures remain. For cyber security experts, coercing clients to follow simple procedures is difficult.
As the experts at Cyber Security Solutions put it, “Keeping data safe is not difficult, we have the tools and know-how to do it, but we can’t watch everyone’s computers all of the time. All it takes for ransomware to get on a network is one mistake. Once ransomware is on the network, data backups are the best way to recover the ransomed data.”
Matt Towns is an influencer marketing pro with brownboxbranding.com who is passionate about building authentic relationships and helping businesses connect with their ideal online audience. He keeps his finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving digital marketing world by writing on the latest marketing advancements and focuses on developing customized blogger outreach plans based on industry and competition.