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How to Avoid Ransomware in 5 Easy Steps

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Posted April 24, 2018

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

Ransomware is a kind of malware that’s been wreaking havoc for the past few years or so. And it’s still considered a big threat to this day.

Despite all of the destruction that Ransomware has created, many people still don’t even know how to perform a basic ransomware removal or protect themselves against it.

So, without any further ado. Let’s take a look at how to protect ourselves from Ransomware.

Summary

All in all, these are the 5 protection steps that we’ll be looking at:

  1. Keep Backups
  2. Use a Security Configuration
  3. Stay Informed
  4. Update your Computer
  5. Keep your Eyes open

Keep Backups

First of all, it doesn’t matter just how safe you think you are. You should always keep backups just to be on the safe side of things.

If you keep backups, in case that something happens, you would still be able to easily format your computer, make a fresh install, and restore your data like nothing ever happened.

As to how to do it, just make sure that your data is somewhere offline/disconnected from your computer at all times.

An easy way of accomplishing that is using external hard drives. They are relatively cheap, and they get the job done.

You don’t necessarily need to backup everything, only your important stuff. The final choice is really up to you, but I prefer to only backup my important files.

Another method of keeping effective backups is relying on cloud services. Just make sure that your computer is not synced to the cloud.

Because if you were to get infected with Ransomware, your encrypted files would automatically replace your normal ones in the cloud as well.

I understand that manually uploading your new files is tedious as hell. But it’s important for your safety so bear with it.

Use a Security Configuration

Security programs are pretty basic. You probably wouldn’t want to use a computer without any security at all.

Thankfully, these programs are also quite useful in protecting us from Ransomware as well. Mostly from preventing us from getting infected. After the infection, chances are that no program will be able to save you.

Using one Antivirus program and one Anti-Malware is generally the way to go. That’s because the two of them focus on different threats. If one of your programs misses something, the other one might detect it.

Yes, I know! We shouldn’t use two security programs at once. But that only goes for two security programs of the same kind.

Like two Antivirus programs or two Anti-Malware ones. Using only one Antivirus and one Anti-Malware is completely fine. Just make sure that they won’t perform any scans on the background at the same time.

As for which ones to choose, it’s pretty hard to say cause these programs change relatively to each other all the time.

My advice would be to make your own research and choose whatever fits you best. The combination of MalwareFox and Windows Defender is generally a good choice for a budget pack.

Stay Informed

Knowledge is power. Ransomware variants work in different ways and some of them are way more sophisticated than others.

If you know how each one of them operates then you’re more likely to successfully protect yourself.

Information about numerous Ransomware variants is all over the Internet. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find it.

Do keep in mind that this is not a one-step process. New variants of Ransomware are getting released every now and then so do keep an eye out for them. With that being said, let’s a take a look at a few examples.

The WannaCry Ransomware utilizes a zero-day exploit in the SMB ports of Windows. It can infect you seemingly out of nowhere without you realizing a thing until it’s too late.

If you want to protect yourself against it, you’ll have to keep your computer up to date with the latest Windows updates.

The Locky Ransomware mostly attaches itself to phishing emails as a .doc extension and uses the macros of MS Word to get installed.

To protect yourself against it, stay away from suspicious emails. You get the point. Knowledge is Power!

Update Your Computer

As mentioned above, the WannaCry Ransomware utilizes a zero-day exploit that was present in older versions of Windows. And updating your computer is the most effective way of protecting yourself against it.

However, nobody can guarantee that the WannaCry is the only kind of malware or Ransomware that uses zero-day exploits to spread itself.

In fact, shortly after WannaCry, another Ransomware called Petya was released and it also used the same zero-day exploit to infect computers.

All I’m trying to say is to keep your computer updated. It’s of highest importance and can save you from various kinds of trouble. Including some Ransomware variants.

The good thing is that Windows 10 updates are mostly automated. So, you won’t have to worry too much about this subject.

All you have to do is to correctly configure them. Set your active hours correctly so that your computer won’t reboot while you’re working.

Also, try not to delay updates that are ready for installation. The more you wait, the more that you render yourself vulnerable.

Keep Your Eyes Open

You might not like this, but what if I told you that it’s entirely possible to get infected even with the latest updates and the best security configuration in the world?

Why? Well, first of all, no security program is perfect. Thousands of malicious programs are getting created every day and Anti-Malware programs are having a rough time in keeping up with them.

As for security updates, zero-day threats are called like that for a reason. It normally takes a few days for developers to patch them.

What can you do from your side? Well, like I said above, keep your eyes open! Most kinds of malware, including Ransomware, usually rely on actions from the user to install themselves.

There are a few rare exceptions such as the WannaCry Ransomware which can get installed seemingly out of nowhere.

A few standard security rules: Stay away from suspicious links, ads, emails, etc. Don’t use non-legitimate freeware and pirated software, and install updates as soon as you can.

Written by Shawn Abraham, a cybersecurity enthusiast working as content manager at MalwareFox.

References:

  1. https://www.malwarefox.com/ransomware-removal/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/technology/personaltech/heres-how-to-protect-yourself-from-ransomware-attacks.html

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