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Ransomware 101: How it Works and Tips to Prevent It

Posted March 13, 2018

Ransomware. Image credit: TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Whether you’re a tech neophyte or adept user of various systems and processes, you’ve likely come across the term “ransomware.” But while you may have a vague idea of this type of malicious software threat, you may not know it can quickly make your life — and, more specifically, your laptop or desktop — a living hell.

To understand more about this type of malware, here’s a look at how it works, its implications and, most importantly, how to prevent your systems from getting infected by ransomware.

All About Ransomware

But first, a brief primer on ransomware. Similar to other types of detrimental malware, ransomware can easily infiltrate your computer or laptop and run in the background without your knowledge. But unlike other malware that does its dirty work behind the scenes, ransomware makes its presence known loud and clear with a ransom demand.

Typically, hackers are able to plant ransomware in business or personal computers through phishing emails. Once users open an email that otherwise looks legitimate and click on a nefarious link, their system can instantly become at-risk, along with threats that their data will be compromised, until they pay hackers a large sum of money.

Do People Really Pay?

Seeing an ominous message on your computer screen indicating your data will be compromised or destroyed unless you pay a ransom can be immensely stressful. Of course, the thought of losing important business and financial documents, along with adored family photos and videos, can cause people to fork over the money—at least some of the time.

However, experts say ransomware payouts tend to be pretty minimal. In most cases, the true costs of ransomware come in the form of personal headaches, including extended computer downtime and lost data and productivity, as well as working feverishly to delete any infected files and restore the computer system.

Tips on Preventing Ransomware

Fortunately, there are a number of proactive steps you can take to safeguard your computer from ransomware. Start by investing in a solid ransomware protection plan for your personal and/or work computer. For example, companies like Mozy offer enterprise-grade encryption and online backup services to help ensure your system is protected.

This way, if ransomware does infect your computer, you’ll have better peace of mind knowing that your documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos and more are safely backed up and stored in online data centers. In addition to investing in an online backup service, you’ll also want to use and run a powerful antivirus program to prevent other forms of malware.

Finally, even if the email seems legitimate, be cautious and vigilant when it comes to opening suspicious-looking emails and attachments. For instance, if you get an email that appears to be from your bank, call your local branch to confirm whether they sent the email or if it’s spam.

Ransomware is Prevalent, But Not Inevitable

Despite the proliferation of ransomware attacks, computer users can — and should be — proactive and vigilant about protecting their tech investments. By understanding how ransomware does its dirty work and taking steps to prevent it and back up your personal data, you can rest assured knowing you’re doing everything in your power to protect the contents of your laptop or PC.


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