The simple concept of a ransomware attack can cause devastating damage to small and large businesses, governmental systems, and private organizations. This kind of malware is a malicious act of hacking one’s computer, extracting all sensitive data, and blackmailing the user to pay money to have the files restored.
2016 is remembered as the year with the largest number of malware and ransomware losses. Through 638 million documented attacks, users lost around $1.45 billion, according to the Internet Crime Report. In 2019, this number decreased considerably to around 187.9 million attacks, mainly due to the implementation of enhanced measures that prevent ransomware attacks. These days, there are numerous ways to avoid ransomware viruses. Read on to learn how to ensure the safety of your data.
Types of Malware
As the world of technology constantly changes, hackers also develop their skills to be able to break into your cutting-edge software. Each year, financial institutions, universities, large and small scale businesses, and even regular PC users are faced with different types of ransomware attacks. Let’s take a look at several of them and get to know how they work.
- Lockers. This virus will disable your operating system to the point of not being able to access any files, folders, or applications. You will only get a screen message informing you that you’ve been hacked. Locker-related ransomware mainly affects Android-run devices.
- Crypto. This is one of the most powerful and damaging forms of malware. This type now only encrypts all the files, hard drives, folders, and even money transactions, but can also undermine a network of PCs or servers, which is especially devastating for big companies that can basically lose everything.
- Doxware. The hackers that apply the two previously mentioned types of malware usually erase all your data unless you pay for a decryption key. However, Doxware attackers will publish and spread everything to the public. This type of malware is damaging for those who store sensitive information, such as photo and video files, as well as for companies that may lose everything.
- Even though the best way to protect against ransomware is to install antivirus software, there are chances that with this software you will download a scareware virus. This malware trick works inside cleaning tools or antivirus extensions and will often spam you with pop up ads to click on.
How Does Ransomware Work?
A ransomware act is quite simple: attackers usually do it through emails that contain a clickable link. Once you open the email and follow the link, the virus downloads into your device in the form of software. After that, a hacker has access to all the data and files that are stored on your server. They will then control your PC until you make a payment to get the decryption key that will restore the information.
Another popular way attackers invade your data is through the browser. Downloading software, movies, music files, or any other information from webpages that have a low level of security can eventually put you in the hands of hackers. Quite often, while visiting a suspicious web page or social media platform, you can accidentally click on a button or link that downloads a program. You may not even notice it at first, but the program will start infecting your device immediately.
Even though statistics show that the rate of ransomware attacks has decreased considerably, there is still a high chance that you could fall into a hacker’s trap. Here are some ways how to prevent ransomware and keep critical data safe.
How to Stop Malware: 6 Ways to Protect Your Data
Preventing your devices from being hit by ransomware attacks will not only protect your data but also save you and your business money. Here is a list of effective ways to mitigate the risks from malware.
1. Do Not Neglect Installing Antivirus Software
Getting rid of ransomware virus is possible with specific software that blocks suspicious links and gives you a warning when you are about to open a poorly-secured website. This up-to-date software will create a secure environment in your PC or Android/iOS operating system and prevent data leakage. With a well-developed network of tools that prevent malware, you can find free antivirus software or pay to level up protective measures. This type of protection will inform you if a suspicious file is inflecting your operating system and will offer you to erase the virus, reset the system, and create backup storage for your files.
2. Skip Opening Suspicious Emails and Clicking on Links
The best defense against ransomware is simply ignoring the ransomware attempts. These so-called “phishing scams” are extremely popular hooks to catch victims. Even though most people are aware of the consequence of clicking on these links, this is still the most popular approach in the world of ransomware attackers. These emails don’t always go into the “Junk” or “Spam” folder, so be cautious, especially if you aren’t expecting a letter from the sender.
3. Create Back-Up Storage
Another way to protect your company or product is to have back-up storage, in some cases, more than one form of back-up storage. All personal information and business data should have several places of storing. Consider having it on a physical device, like SD cards or external hard drives, and cloud-based storage such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Large-scale businesses are especially careful about their data, so they keep all information on several servers, inside the country or even overseas. By having the information backed-up, even if you do get hacked, you can easily restore all information to your devices once the attacker realizes that you are not interested in the decryption key.
4. Make Sure to Update Your Operating System From Time to Time
Outdated software and hardware are especially vulnerable to viruses. Attackers can identify if your device requires a strong virus or it can be hit by a small one. Once they realize that your computer does not support the latest antiviruses software, you are more likely to face a ransomware attack. As technology grows and develops, it takes time for hackers to come up with new ways to invade your up-to-date devices, bypass your modern antivirus software, and encrypt your sensitive data.
5. Use a Multi-Faceted Security Approach
Similar to having three door locks, a gate, and security cameras, your PC should also have several layers of protection. Attackers attempt to invade your device from different angles, so the more angles you protect the more likely you are to spook your attackers and make them leave.
6. Install Web Filtering Tools
This solution works similarly to the antivirus software that warns you about dangerous webpages and prevents ransomware virus on social sites. Since quite often pop-up ads also contain extort-related files that you can accidentally click on, the web filter will block it so that it won’t appear on your screen. The key benefit of using this tool is that it does not affect the performance of your browser or your PC while providing you an entirely-secured Internet environment.
7. Integrate a Secure Payment Gateway
Often, the hackers behind this type of crime target the payment system, as there is more potential for a blackmail scheme to be worked out. With this in mind, companies that deal with sales must come up with solid online payment software solutions to ensure the processing of transactions is well-protected. This software is designed specifically for securing the data flow, credit card information, and other customer data which is done through numerous encryption keys.
The world of the Internet forces you to be more attentive and build a solid protection wall around your files, folders, media, and other sensitive data. With a great variety of powerful and damaging types of ransomware attacks, it is crucial to find the best ways to prevent ransomware, thus protecting your customers’ personal information, sensitive data, and business files from leakage. Browser filtering, antivirus software, numerous backups, and operating system updates will help keep attackers far away.