Monday, May 15, 2017

4 Tips To Protect Yourself From Becoming A Ransomware Victim

Update your system and back up your files. Like, now!


By Mike Murphy
MarketWatch
May 15, 2017

A massive cyberattack has claimed more than 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries over the past few days, and officials say the situation will likely worsen.

The WannaCry ransomware — so called because it essentially holds a computer or network hostage unless a ransom is paid to unlock it — targeted Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT, -0.12% Windows computers, mostly at businesses and government organizations, and affected everything from hospitals in the U.K. to Fedex in the U.S. to gas-station cards in China. Experts worry the virus could spread again Monday, as Asian corporate networks go online and the hackers tweak their code to elude makeshift defenses.

But there are a few simple ways to avoid being the next ransomware victim:

1. Update, update, update.
If your computer runs Windows, make sure your operating system is updated. In March, Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability that the ransomware worm targeted, so if you haven’t updated since then you may be at risk. The easiest thing to do is approve auto-updates, if your particular Windows system allows that. Otherwise, always approve Windows software updates so you’re running the most up-to-date, secure system.

2. Back up your data.
If you have your most important data saved on a separate system, then you won’t be at risk of losing all your photos and data files if you get infected. The best options are an external hard drive that you update regularly and is not connected to the internet, or a cloud-storage service, such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud or Microsoft OneCloud. While a cloud service could still be targeted, the odds are a multi-billion-dollar tech giant will have much better security than you do, and much better resources to respond quickly to an attack.

3. Be careful what you open.
Especially now, be wary of any unsolicited emails asking you to click on a link, or to download a file. If it looks weird, or the site is suspicious, don’t click it. Doing so could infect not only your computer, but whatever network you’re on — that’s how the virus spreads.

4. Use antivirus software.
While they’re not always guaranteed to catch every virus, this is literally the job they’re built for. Scans can block viruses from being downloaded, and prevent malware from being installed.

So what happens if you do get infected with ransomware? Probably nothing good. WannaCry is named that for a reason — it takes over your computer, encrypts your files and threatens to delete them unless you pay about $300.

You can try a decryption tool to unlock your data, but that won’t always work, and hackers will sometimes use such apps as bait to further infect your system (so if you download one, only get it from a trusted, official site). The other option is paying the hackers, however unsavory that may seem.


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