What is Ransomware and 7 Tips to protect your System

No! Do not open that spam email or that infected document! I am addressing my opening sentences to thousands of people who in a few minutes may lose all their data to cyber criminals. Gone are the days when rich people were targeted and blackmailed for ransom, now with automated attacks any computer system can be targeted by these ransomware creators, whether it is a business entity, home user, or a public institution.

ransomware

If a ransomware is able to attack your system, it generally blocks your access to your files and data, and recovering them would require you to pay the ransom.

These ransomware can affect your systems in many different ways, and some are much more serious than others.

  • Locks without the key: Here we are talking about the Lockers, which can make it impossible for you to access the files and applications on your system. The computer is locked and it becomes pretty difficult (if not impossible) to retrieve the data. The user is no longer able to access the operating system. But most of these lockers don’t encrypt the files. For example WinLocker.
  • Encryptors: These are advanced ransomware which are able to encrypt your files in the system and ask ransom in return to give the decrypting key. The algorithms which encrypt the files are very complex, making it impossible to decrypt it on your own.

Generally, an email with the link of affected site is sent and an attachment is downloaded. If it is opened a ransomware is downloaded from a domain. The ransomware encrypts all the data on the hard drive and the cloud so that the user isn’t able to recover the backed up data and is left helpless. Some of the major ransomware are Locky, Wannacry, RorrentLocker etc.

Trying to access your files might open up a message, which asks for money which has to be paid within a time frame, or the ransom money bumps up. It threatens to delete all your files if the ransom isn’t paid. Your traditional antivirus might not be able to deal with these evasive malware which could extract information like emails, phone numbers, and passwords from your computers. Here are some tips for you to prevent such attacks.

  • We need back-up! The basic preventive measure which can be taken is making multiple back-ups of the data in case of such emergencies. Only a cloud back-up isn’t sufficient as the ransomware can affect them too. A physical back-up in a hard drive becomes important to ensure proper safety. Most of the ransomware affect home users because the cyber criminals know that they usually do not maintain a back-up.
  • Phishing a fish: You might be aware of the emails which try to sound important or mimics a notification from your bank. Opening the links attached to these emails could be your first step in trapping yourself in the web of malware.
  • An update could save: Updating your operating systems, browsers and antiviruses could help the system to identify malicious websites. The Majority of the malware attack home users and public institutions because they use outdated software.
  • Antivirus: Use a paid and updated antivirus. Although many times they fail to point out a ransomware, but they can use special capabilities to protect the files on being attacked by a virus.
  • Internet your foe: If you find an unknown program installing on your device, you should immediately disconnect it from the internet connection. If the ransomware isn’t able to complete its process of deleting the keys, the process of restoration of files might become simpler.
  • To pay or not: If you have got your system infected with ransomware, the next question arises, should we pay the ransom? It is imperative to know that paying them wouldn’t ensure the data retrieval. Surveys suggest that one of four people who paid the ransom never got their data back. From a moral perspective, you would be funding the cyber criminals who would misuse the money for further attacks.
  • Decrypting: Although recent and complex ransomware like WannaCry cannot be decrypted but an older version of ransomware could be easy to break. Ransomware decryption tools and other online tools may be sufficient to decrypt such less advanced ransomware.

‘Oh! It wouldn’t happen to me’ is the first step of making yourself susceptible to being attacked by these malware. There is no doubt that prevention is the best (and sometimes the only) strategy which will work against such attacks.