If you think that criminals ask ransom for kidnapped people only, you are very mistaken. Information is power, and in this day and age when technology brings with it a myriad of business opportunities, cybercriminals are finding it a goldmine, consequently reaping where they did not sow.
They initiate ransomware attacks by tricking you into installing a file that appears legitimate or prompting you to click on a malicious link. Upon downloading the file or clicking the link, the ransomware will encrypt your data, and prevent you from accessing the file until you pay a ransom.
Though in the past cybercriminals have targeted high profile victims such as hospitals and schools, your home computer is also at risk which begs the question, “what can you do to protect your computer from a ransomware attack?” There are many options available so let’s look at some of them.
1. Backing up files
The same way you can avoid your loved ones from being kidnapped by keeping them safe, you can do the same to your data. Regularly backing up your data will mean that even if the unfortunate incidence of someone holding your data for ransom occurs, there is nothing to worry you.
You only pay up when the only copy of your information is under threat. However, after backing up, they have a copy of your data while another copy is well kept either in an external hard drive or a cloud-based system.
You should take extra measures by ensuring that your external drive is not plugged in the computer when you are not backing up and keep it in a safe area.
Also, be proactive and find out all the details you can about the cloud-based service you are using, such as who has access to the servers and their location.
2. Update your operating system regularly
If you have not been keeping your computer up-to-date, you are exposing yourself to ransomware attacks. Devices on Windows are extremely vulnerable to malware, and with ransomware like WannaCry ready to exploit such vulnerabilities, you should know how to protect your computer from that unfortunate possibility.
Depending on the version of your Windows, you have to update your machine using specific links compatible with your version.
3. Using antivirus
Installing an antivirus system and ensuring it’s well-updated will keep away the ransomware attacks from your computer. Reputable IT companies such as ESET software and Kaspersky Lab update their databases daily, most likely in few hours’ intervals. With such a frequency, your data is out of danger as opposed to weekly or monthly updates since the cybercriminals have a very narrow window frame to pose a threat.
Apart from doing real-time scanning, your antivirus system should be in a position to warn you when you are about to browse malicious sites. Make use of the antivirus by scanning all documents even if they are from trusted sources because you can never be 100% sure of their safety.
Additionally, no matter how tempting a video or image looks, do not click on it, especially if you do not know the person who sent it to you. All the same, no matter how vigilant you are you should not run two antivirus systems simultaneously otherwise you will crash the very thing you are trying to protect.
4. Using a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) has many benefits, among which is protecting your computer from ransomware attacks by increasing the defense system.
Sometimes you may want to hide your IP address so that you can gain access to specific sites that restrict users of certain areas.Your best bet is to use a VPN which in the process also makes it difficult for malware developers or hackers to target your machine.
Usually, they are predators looking for easy prey; therefore, they will search for the vulnerable computers instead. VPN also challenges the ransomware attacks in that it encrypts any data you access or share online keeping your data out of reach of malware attacks.
Moreover, if you can a get a reliable VPN provider, you will have the advantage of blacklisting any suspicious URLs, therefore, ensure you look for a reputable service provider.
It can be frustrating to have your essential information in the hands of someone else who threatens to destroy it until you pay, especially when you do not have what they are asking for in return.
The good news is it does not have to come to that because you can take charge of your computer and all that is within it. Do not sit back and wait for hackers to gain access to your data; instead, take the necessary measures as listed above and protect your computer, whether at home or in business, from ransomware attacks.
You can incorporate several methods simultaneously, for instance using a VPN, updating your antivirus and operating systems, backing up your files and scanning all incoming correspondences. Like they say, better safe than sorry.