What is ransomware and how to stop it

The list of computer threats is long and often confusing, from viruses to adware and phishing schemes.

Whenever you’re checking your bank account online or paying bills, you need to be extremely careful with the websites you visit and the links you click. Recklessness online may cause you to inadvertently install malicious computer software known as ransomware.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of software (or malware) that is specifically designed to disrupt or gain unauthorized access to your computer. It prevents you from using your computer until you pay a ransom.

There are various types of ransomware, all of which prevent your computer from functioning. Ransomware can:

  • Lock you out of your entire computer,
  • Prevent applications or programs from opening, and
  • Encrypt files to restrict access.

In almost every case, attackers will demand payment. Once they receive the ransom, they’re supposed to restore function to your computer. If you fail to pay within a period, the attackers may demand more money.

Ransomware is widespread, and personal users and business owners must be cautious. You must be alert and protect yourself and your computers at all times.

OfficeYour personal and work computers need to be protected at all times.

Protecting Yourself At Home

Ransomware creators usually target average home users because they don’t  have the knowledge or expertise to properly protect themselves.

Luckily, you can defend yourself by following some best practices. First, let’s go over proper habits while browsing the internet:

  • Avoid clicking suspicious links in emails or on social media.
  • Don’t open unknown email attachments.
  • Only download files from trusted sources.

You must also realize that your personal computer can be targeted at any time. Protect yourself by ensuring you have anti-virus with active monitoring installed on your computer. If you want to go one step further, install anti-malware and anti-ransomware programs.

Next, back up your data. If ransomware encrypts your files, you’ll be able to recover quickly and avoid paying a ransom. Create several backups of your files on an external hard drive or a secure cloud service. Make these backups regularly, and don’t leave them plugged into your computer. External devices are also at risk of becoming infected.

Protecting Your Business

Microsoft recently reported that the number of ransomware attacks on businesses is increasing. Attackers target businesses because companies are more likely to pay a ransom when their operations are disrupted.

Protecting your business involves more than safeguarding your personal computer with the best practices outlined above.

First, create a cybersecurity plan that outlines best practices, security tools, and your response to ransomware attacks. Remember, you not only have to account for computers but also servers and mobile devices. Anything that’s connected to the internet can become an access point to sensitive business files.

Your cybersecurity plan needs to include employee training. If your workers aren’t careful while checking email or processing orders, they can unknowingly expose computers to ransomware.

The response portion of your plan should detail the actions you’ll take following the discovery of ransomware. These can include contacting the authorities and restoring files from backups.

Finally, stay up-to-date about the latest ransomware attacks. According to Microsoft, there are many types of ransomware out in the wild. Understanding the warning signs and how these dangerous programs operate is vital to your future protection.

Infographic Ransomware Nov 2023Get Cyber insurance

Whether you’re a homeowner or small-business owner, you may be interested in obtaining cyber insurance. Policies offered by Bank Midwest Insurance can help protect you from ransomware and other online threats and will provide peace of mind. You aren’t invincible online, so you must take precautions and protect yourself before your personal life or finances become compromised.

The internet, for all its benefits, also comes with threats like ransomware. If you aren’t careful, your personal and business computers and files may be held hostage. But if you follow best practices at home and in your business, you can help protect yourself.

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Post updated. Originally published January 2017

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