Defend your data
Six simple steps to protect your data from ransomware.
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