It seems like ransomware or reports of ransomware attacks are everywhere these days. The ubiquity of this form of attack isn’t a surprise. It’s been building up for years, with attackers growing bolder, striking often, and demanding more money with each successful ransomware attack.
While it is true that various industries bear the brunt of most ransomware attacks, it doesn’t exclusively them. Ransomware attacks can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. To better prepare yourself for the effects of a ransomware attack (whether it happens to you personally or to an organization you regularly use), check out the short guide below.
What Is Ransomware And Why Should You Care?
Ransomware is a kind of malware that infects your system and encrypts your files so you can’t access them. Attackers demand monetary compensation (usually as cryptocurrency) to release the decryption keys to the files. Since 2015, ransomware attacks have been on the rise, hitting many different industries across health, retail, education, in other spheres. Ransomware attacks affecting android phones are also on the rise at the moment, which could seriously impact basically anyone. In a world where most of us are connected and use smartphones daily, the prospect of being hit by one of these devastating attacks is not a pleasant thought. Taking a few simple steps to prevent these types of issues from occurring in the first place is quite easy, so it’s prudent not to overlook taking basic security measures to protect yourself.
How Ransomware Impacts Individuals
If you’ve watched the news at all or read any news coverage online recently, then you already know how negatively ransomware attacks affect various industries. Hospitals and school systems are particularly targeted, but we’ve seen it happen with large supply chain/distribution chain companies that impact the consumer directly. But ransomware isn’t exclusive to targeting industries. Attackers will go for a personal computer or device just as readily as they will a larger target. When an attack hits larger industries, it wreaks all sorts of havoc on everyone. From higher gas prices and weakened fuel supply to missed medical appointments and schools closing down, ransomware attacks potentially affect everyone during their everyday lives.
Understanding How Ransomware Works
To begin its attack, ransomware must first infect a user’s system. This usually occurs via a phishing attack or some other malware being downloaded via a secure connection or malicious website. Sometimes, it is accomplished through social engineering or spam. After ransomware infects a user’s system, it’ll start isolating and encrypting files and data. A decryption key will be held by the attacker as they demand payment. Once they receive the payment, they may release the decryption keys – although that is not always what happens in the scenario. There are a few different encryption techniques like symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption, and hybrid encryption that attackers used to perpetrate their dastardly deeds.
Once ransomware infects your computer, it can be tough to remove or recover. Outside of taking some proactive measures, it’s best to implement a ransomware removal and maximum security suite to monitor your system. Not only does this protect against myriad web threats, viruses, and privacy concerns, it can help prevent and eliminate ransomware too. You want a solution that can easily detect many different ransomware variants quickly, automatically restoring your system, and ensure that that restoration system isn’t based on built-in system tools from your OS (as some of these methods are typically targeted by the ransomware).
Protecting Yourself From A Ransomware Attack
This probably isn’t what anyone who’s been affected by a ransomware attack whilst here, but the best way to protect yourself from an attack is to be proactive and use various preventative measures. Creating regular backups is essential to both recovering from and preventing ransomware attacks. Updating your operating system and keeping programs up-to-date is helpful as new updates patch vulnerabilities, improve functionality/stability, and can improve the overall security of the OS or program.
Furthermore, patching any potential vulnerabilities in your system is essential to preventing ransomware attacks. Finally just make sure to use common sense/best practices when it comes to passwords, web browsing, and reading emails. A phishing email is typically easy to spot – as it appears to be legitimate but has some minor inconsistencies – and utilizing software to help flag these types of emails might contribute positively to a solution. In extreme cases, you could always try a wipe and restore to bring the machine back up. Of course, there is no foolproof method for preventing these attacks, but these mitigation methods are useful for guarding against this pervasive and devastating modern threat.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!