Ransomware in its modern form has been around since late 2013.
It is a type of malicious software (AKA virus) that blocks access to the user data until a ransom is paid, (usually in the form of crypto currency, and with Bitcoin being the favorite one).

 

Despite being around for several years, the events of the last weekend has put ransomware in the spotlights due to the severity and scale of its last version – known as “Wanna cry”.

 

Reports say that over 60 states have been under attack, with UK hospitals postponing surgeries due to impact on critical systems.

 

But not all hope is gone, there are ways to keep your system and data safe from ransomware attack.
And The good news is  – you DO NOT have to be a computer geek to apply them.
These tools are simple and easy to use by everyone. 

 

One crucial thing to point out, these set of tools apply throughout the year, every day.
They are not unique, nor specific to ransomware attacks, and you would be wise to follow them whenever you use your computer or smartphone.

  • #1 – Windows updates
    Keeping windows up to date is easy and (most of the time) effortless, As basic and trivial as it may sound, this is often overlooked. Did you know that the latest  “Wanna  cry” outspread simply took an advantage of a security vulnerability, which was fixed by Microsoft more than 2 months before the attack? All the attackers did was to take advantage of systems that were not up to date.
    Furthermore – in some cases windows updates are actually a dependency for antivirus and anti-malware programs to be able to detect viruses and other harmful software, which leads me to my second tip…
  • #2 – Keep your antivirus (and anti-malware) protection up to date
    I don’t care which one you going to use / already using. This post isn’t about comparing endpoint security products. You can use the built-in security features in Windows 10 for all I care (they are far better than their reputation by the way), but be sure to have one, and keep it up to date.
  • #3 – Backup
    I cannot stress this enough! Backup your data regularly.
    For the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter if you backup to an external disk or to a cloud service, but backup, at least once a week.

    1. Backup to external drive
      If you choose to backup to external drive remember to disconnect the drive once backup is complete, otherwise if your computer gets infected, your backup drive will be infected too.
    2. Backup using “the cloud”
      If you use a cloud backup service, verify if your service provider also offers versioning, or simply “copy” your files to alternate location. As most cloud backup service offers “constant” backup feature that scans for changes files on the fly, if your source files get hit by a virus, the corrupted files will also be uploaded to cloud backup archive overwriting your clean backup copy. If your cloud backup provider offers versioning (also known as archiving) you can simply restore an older version of your files / archive as soon as your computer is clean and get back to normal.

      On a personal note I use Crashplan by code42. I find crashplan value to be outstanding compared to its cost ($60/year for unlimited storage). I’m also very satisfied with my ability to restore files when I need (100% success!), which leads me to my next point…

    3. Test your backup!
      Backing up is not enough, every once in a while you must test your backup and make sure you can access your files. External hard drive is like an internal one, just in different case. My recommendation is to test your backup , at least once a month, and make sure you can restore files from your backup. Try different files every months!
    4. Last but not least for this tip – Backup your mobile phone!
      I love photography, but I do not take my camera with me all the time. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
      We are all taking pictures using our mobile phone these days, and not only pictures, we create documents and much more. As I said before, you should take care of your mobile phone just like another computer that you own. And just to be clear – copying pictures from your phone to your computer does not count unless you backup your computer!
  • #4 – Do not click on suspicious links
    Nothing complicated here – If you are not sure that the link you click on is safe, don’t click it.
    You’d better manually type the address in your browser!
  • #5 – Do not download files from unknown sources
    Ever saw a popup offering you a free program to clean your pc? Watch free tv everywhere? Win an iPhone or something that looks too good to be true?  Chances are that it is too good to be true, DON’T CLICK!
  • #6 – Do not open email messages from unknown senders
    I’m sorry but no African prince truly died and left you 1 million  dollar, nor you are entitled for a free winning lottery ticket…It sucks I know, but opening emails of this kind will get you in trouble. Shift-Delete is your best friend in this case (Or simply delete them and then clean your deleted items folder).
  • #7 – Using WhatsApp for desktop or messenger?
    Be extra careful when you receive messages containing links. Best course of action will be to verify with your friend in he actually sent you a link before opening it.
  • #8 – Text messages / messenger / WhatsApp on mobile phone
    Some viruses are designed to work specifically on mobile devices. Once your mobile device get compromised it is just a matter of time until your computer will be compromised as well. So same rules we covered so far apply to mobile devices as well. Block / blacklist ignore unknown sender and messages.
  • #9 – Use different email and password to social media and bank accounts.
    Simply put, it is safer to say that your social media accounts are in higher risks of being compromised than your bank accounts (including PayPal and other payment processors). I strongly suggest that you do not use the same login details for social media and financial services. Which leads me to my last tip
  • #10 – Do not click on links coming from your bank / credit card company / PayPal (and others)
    First of all – it is most likely that your bank will never send you a link by email.
    But still if you get an email from you bank or credit card company that tells you it is time to change password, or to enter your account and take some action, open your browser and enter the address manually.
    Honestly, I cannot stress this one enough!

Remember, if you have a doubt, then there is no doubt do not open / click / save / run any file you’re not 100% sure it is safe.
The saying “it is better safe than sorry” does not exist for nothing…

You are welcome to share additional tips by adding a comment below.
Most important – Stay safe!

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