De­fend your data

Six sim­ple steps to pro­tect your data from ran­somware.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology -

RE­CENT ran­somware at­tacks have rat­tled In­ter­net users around the world. This ma­li­cious soft­ware black­mails users by en­crypt­ing the files on their com­puter or mo­bile de­vice and de­mand­ing pay­ment, gen­er­ally in the vir­tual cur­rency Bit­coin, to un­lock them.

But these six sim­ple se­cu­rity mea­sures can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risk of a com­puter be­ing hit by an at­tack.

Reg­u­lar up­dates: Soft­ware up­dates for browsers and op­er­at­ing sys­tems don’t just add new func­tions – they also in­stall se­cu­rity patches to pro­tect com­put­ers against the lat­est ma­li­cious soft­ware.

The Ger­man Fed­eral Of­fice for In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity (BSI) rec­om­mends en­abling au­to­matic up­dates on a de­vice and ad­vises against the use of older op­er­at­ing sys­tems such as Win­dows XP, for which Mi­crosoft has stopped pro­vid­ing reg­u­lar se­cu­rity up­dates.

Be vig­i­lant: Don’t trust any­one, says nomor­eran­som.org, a web­site run by IT se­cu­rity com­pa­nies and Eu­ro­pean law en­force­ment. Never open e-mail at­tach­ments from sus­pi­cious ac­counts, don’t click on ques­tion­able links and don’t down­load un­ver­i­fied soft­ware.

Even e-mails from friends and co-work­ers should not nec­es­sar­ily be trusted. Be­fore open­ing an at­tach­ment or click­ing on a link, al­ways take time to con­sider whether the sender’s on­line ac­count could have been hacked or their com­puter soft­ware in­fil­trated by ma­li­cious soft­ware.

An­tivirus soft­ware: En­able all the se­cu­rity ap­pli­ca­tions in your op­er­at­ing sys­tem, ad­vises the BSI. Re­li­able an­tivirus soft­ware can pro­vide fur­ther pro­tec­tion, but must be kept up-to-date.

Back up data: Cre­at­ing dig­i­tal du­pli­cates of your files can pro­tect your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from dis­ap­pear­ing for­ever. In the event of an at­tack, you can just trans­fer over your back-up files.

Win­dows (Backup and Re­store) and MacOS (Time Ma­chine) have in-built ap­pli­ca­tions for back­ing up your data, but they might not be ac­ces­si­ble in the event of an at­tack. A more se­cure op­tion would be to save your files in an ex­ter­nal de­vice, such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, DVD, or on the Cloud.

To re­duce the risk of spread­ing viruses, only con­nect the ex­ter­nal drive to a de­vice dur­ing file trans­fers. As an ex­tra pre­cau­tion, save your data in two separate ex­ter­nal hard drives.

Fight back: If you hap­pen to ac­ci­den­tally in­stall ma­li­cious soft­ware or re­ceive sus­pi­cious mes­sages, im­me­di­ately dis­con­nect your de­vice from the In­ter­net, in­structs nomor­eran­som.org. This will pre­vent the in­fec­tion from spread­ing.

You can then run a clean in­stal­la­tion of your com­puter soft­ware, and trans­fer over your back-up files. For some types of ran­somware, there are tech­niques on­line to un­lock the con­tent on your com­puter.

Never pay: A black­mailer’s de­mands should never be met, says the State Of­fice of Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion (LKA) of Lower Sax­ony. There are sev­eral rea­sons for this, the LKA re­ports. First, even if you pay the ran­som, there is no guar­an­tee that you will re­gain ac­cess to your files.

Se­cond, by pay­ing the at­tacker, you are sup­port­ing the growth of a crim­i­nal in­dus­try. Ev­ery pay­ment fi­nances new at­tacks. In the case of the re­cent NotPetya out­break, the pay­ment sys­tem is use­less, be­cause only one e-mail ad­dress was pro­vided, which has since been shut down by the provider. — dpa

Ran­somware black­mails In­ter­net users by en­crypt­ing the files on their com­puter or mo­bile de­vice and de­mand­ing pay­ment, gen­er­ally in the vir­tual cur­rency Bit­coin, to un­lock them. — dpa

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