Ransomware is becoming a familiar term, so what exactly is it? Ransomware is a virus that locks your computer, and then demands payment, usually in the form of online currency, Bitcoin.
Once the ransom is paid, theoretically, your files should be unlocked.
Both the Petya and WannaCry ransomware viruses primarily targeted PCs and laptops that use out-of-date software such as Windows XP. Microsoft stopped all technical support for Windows XP in 2014, which leaves the old operating software particularly vulnerable to attack. Although the risks are lower, newer versions of Windows, including Windows 10, 8 and 7, can also be infected.
BUSINESS buddy wants every client to stay safe online and we’ve found seven simple ways to protect your computer from ransomware viruses.
1. Install software updates regularly
It is important to keep your operating systems up to date with the latest versions. Microsoft typically includes patches in their most recent software updates for Windows. Don’t ignore those annoying prompts, or use an auto-update, if available. For older versions of Windows, go to the Microsoft website and download the patches you need.
2. Back up your computer
It is vital that you back up your files at least weekly, if not daily for businesses. Cloud-based file storage systems such as Dropbox or Google Drive are good options for smaller businesses. An external back-up device is even better because it can store files as well as system software but be aware that if you use an external hard drive, you must unplug it from the network once the backup is complete, to prevent it from being infected.
3. Use anti-virus software
You are also advised to install antivirus software that continuously monitor your computer for potential threats. This almost seems so commonplace that we shouldn’t need to mention it but something as simple as overlooking renewing an antivirus software subscription can leave your computer open to bugs within hours of connecting to the internet.
4. Be aware of phishing scams
A phishing scam is an email or website that often looks legitimate but installs a virus on your computer once you open it. Look for the little padlock symbol in front of the web address in the URL bar and make sure the web address starts with the prefix https://. They regularly contain spelling mistakes and poor grammar, so don’t click on anything suspicious.
If an offer looks too good to be true – it is.
5. Don’t use the same password for multiple websites
We all do it. Those dodgy passwords like, 1234 or password do little to protect your accounts so just don’t go there.
Using use the same password for numerous websites and programs also leaves your system vulnerable to multiple attacks.
Make sure every password is strong, unique, regularly changed and stored safely. There are online password managers such as Dashlane and Norton Identity Safe that are free. If passwords need to be shared or accessible across multiple devices subscription is required.
6. Don’t stick in an unknown hard drive or flash drive
If you don’t know where a hard drive or memory stick has been – do not put it into your computer. It may be a carrier of malware and infect your device.
7. For your eyes only
There is a reason systems provide limited access to users. The more people who can access your files, software, email, social media and everything else – the greater the risk that ransomware and viruses will spread quickly. It is also a high risk for fraud.
“The compartmentalisation of user privileges can limit the extent of the encryption to just the data owned by the affected user,” the New Zealand National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) says.
“Ransomware doesn’t have to go viral in your organisation; limit access to your data and file systems to those with a business need to use them.”
BUSINESS buddy recommends you have a good relationship with your IT support people and stay up-to-date with new developments to keep your systems safe.
Using technology is a lot safer than storing documents in a filing cabinet or leaving them on your desk top but everyone needs to have healthy IT habits to avoid infections.