Understanding How Ransomware Works and How to Protect Your System From It

We currently live in an era where the digital world can significantly affect people’s lives and livelihoods, so the importance of effective cybersecurity cannot be stressed enough. Without it, individuals and organizations open up their computer systems and devices to different forms of attacks that aim to steal, revise, and even destroy stored information.

One of the most common types of cyber attacks is ransomware. From its name alone, you may already have an idea of what it is and how it works. Below is a quick breakdown of what ransomware is, how it spreads, and how you can implement ransomware prevention protocols to keep your computers and data safe.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that can encrypt or lock out your computer system. The individual who sent the ransomware then asks for a form of payment (usually money in the form of crypto) in exchange for giving you back access to your system. Think of it as a program that holds your files and devices hostage until you pay the attacker’s ransom. Some types of ransomware can even go as far as to lock the screen, cutting you off from accessing the computer system and company network completely. To get back your access, you need a decryption key that the attacker holds.

The ones behind the ransomware then contact you and ask for a ransom in exchange for the decryption code. The ransom is usually a specified amount of money that can range up to a few hundred to millions of dollars, depending on the company’s size. Most cybercriminals today ask victims to pay through popular cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin or Monero, to avoid getting tracked. Additionally, victims are usually given a limited amount of time to come up with the ransom or their data will be exposed publicly or sold on the dark web.

Bear in mind that while the attackers may promise to give you back your files, there is no guarantee of it. Some fulfill their end of the deal while others may just take your money and flee without giving you the decryption key. Worse, some attackers continue to exploit their victims and simply keep asking for more and more money.

This is why it’s utterly important for companies to invest in ransomware prevention solution. Even a free cybersecurity solution for small business, such as one that Mamori.io provides, can be integral in protecting your company’s private data.

How Does Ransomware Work and Spread?

The general process behind a ransomware attack is simple. Ransomware enters a computer system by downloading a file online or via a USB device. Some users feel safe as long as they do not grant a program administrative access to their computers, but some studies have shown that many ransomware strains can still run and lock systems even without such permissions.

To help protect your devices from ransomware, it’s important to be aware of the different ways it can get into your system. Here are some of the most common ways ransomware infiltrates computer systems:

  • Malicious Email Attachments – They commonly spread through email and may look legitimate at first glance.
  • Drive-by Downloading – This occurs when a user visits an infected website and unknowingly downloads ransomware unto their computers.
  • Links in Social Media – Attackers or bots may send you a message on your social media page, a chat group, or a forum with a link that redirects you to an infected website.
  • Targeting Vulnerable Web Servers – Cyber criminals choose specific targets and take advantage of the vulnerabilities in their computer systems to execute their ransomware attacks.

How Can You Protect Your System from It?

As the common saying goes: “prevention is better than cure,” and it applies to ransomware protection. It only takes as little as three seconds before ransomware begins locking and encrypting files on a compromised system, so a tight cyber defense is necessary.

Here are some handy tips you can practice to keep your devices ransomware-free:

Install a Security Software: A reliable ransomware protection software is your first line of defense against a ransomware attack. Make sure to research your options carefully and search for reputable security software that is up-to-date on ransomware strain developments.

Keep Your Operating System and Programs Updated: Cyber attackers often try to take advantage of any present vulnerabilities that programs may have, so developers work hard to update their programs to deal with these weak points. Thus, make it a habit to keep your computer’s operating system and apps up to date.

Be Cautious of Opening Links and Attachments: As mentioned earlier, cyber-attacks often come in the form of links and attachments in emails, messages, and pop-up ads, among other things. Hence, be very careful when surfing online, and stay away from suspicious websites and unsolicited messages from strangers with links that send you to an unknown site.

Backup Your Files Regularly: If you have backups, losing access to your computer system is not as threatening because you know that you still have copies of any important information. Take advantage of cloud services, or make backups in a secure external hard drive. In this manner, even if ransomware does infiltrate your system, you will still have access to your backup files.

Overall, ransomware is only one of the many forms of cyber attacks happening every day. Be vigilant and stay on top of any developments in the cybersecurity sector. In this manner, you can enact the proper security measures to keep you and your computer safe.

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