Ransomware payments exceeded $1 billion in 2016, and are expected to be even higher in 2017. With the number of ransomware attacks on the rise, it is now more important than ever to protect yourself against it using these practical prevention tips.
Email Best Practices
The majority of ransomware attacks are carried out through suspicious links in email messages or attachments. As such, you should open emails only from trusted sources, and do not click on any unusual links or attachments. Configure your anti-spam settings so they block suspicious attachments with .exe, scr., or vbs. extensions. When using the “show file extensions” feature, keep in mind that fraudsters sometimes assign multiple extensions to a file, allowing it to appear safe when in fact it is not.
All incoming emails should be scanned, particularly ones with compressed attachments. Should you discover an unusual attachment or once containing an .scr file, you should immediately quarantine that message.
Backing up Files
Having a backup of your files is the best protection against ransomware. To be really safe, you should have multiple forms of backup-for example, one in the cloud, one on an external hard drive, and another on an online service such as Google Drive.
Many instances of ransomware can be prevented by utilizing good information security practices such as:
- Keeping your browsers and software up-to-date by installing the latest patches as soon as they become available.
- Maintaining good antivirus, antimalware programs and updating as needed.
- Keeping your Windows firewall turned on at all times, and check it regularly to ensure it is properly configured. Consider multiple firewalls if you regularly handle very sensitive data or are at risk for contracting ransomware.
- Configuring your security software to scan archived files if possible.
- Disabling Windows Script Host and Windows PowerShell. In Microsoft Office, disable macros and Active X for any users who do not absolutely have to have them.
- Installing a pop-up blocker through your web browser.
- Deactivating AutoPlay so that flash drives cannot be used to automatically launch an attack.
- Disabling the file-sharing feature so that if one person is affected, ransomware will be quarantined.
- Switching off unused Bluetooth or infrared ports when not in use.
Incorporate the following administrative practices to help you prevent ransomware:
- Always use strong passwords, and change them on a regular basis.
- Use a different password for each one of your accounts.
- Avoid giving too many people administrative access to their workstations, as this increases the odds that someone will download a malicious file.
- Provide ongoing training to raise awareness of ransomware and encourage safe practices.
- Develop a plan to follow in the event that you do contract ransomware despite your best efforts to prevent it.
Just as it is not possible to prevent all break-ins, it is also not feasible to eliminate all instances of hacking and ransomware. You can however make yourself an unattractive target in the hopes that cybercriminals will move on to another victim. Preventing ransomware requires far less money and effort than restoring your system after an attack, which is why you should take measures now to protect yourself.