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Ransomware is not a new phenomenon; its origins go back to the healthcare industry in 1989. Known as the AIDS Trojan, the malware was spread via floppy disks that were sent to AIDS research organisations and encrypted files after a certain number of system reboots.
Targets range from computers to smart TVs and the list gets longer every year. It is now a billion-dollar business and everyone on the dark side of the Web wants a piece of the action.
2016 was a highly successful year for ransomware and saw a massive surge, not only in the number of attacks, but also in their variety. This upward trend continued into 2017 with numerous large scale attacks including the WannaCry attack on May 12. This is the largest attack yet, affecting around 200,000 computers in 150 countries in industries ranging from healthcare to public transport. This attack really proves that ransomware has started to take on disturbing and very expensive dimensions.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself Against Ransomware?
The key word here is prevention. A few simple, precautionary measures will greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a ransomware attack.
1. Backup backups
This is valid for computers and all other mobile devices and gadgets you may have - create several backups of all important data and make sure that they aren't all in the same place. It is also very important to regularly test and monitor your backups so that if you do end up needing them, you can rest assured that they will work.
2. Stop clicking
The best way to prevent these types of attacks is education. People who work in IT are less susceptible to such attacks, as they identify suspicious mails and websites before clicking on links. Educating other people in the company about how to do this will help reduce these types of attacks.
Spam filters, antivirus software, and firewalls help to keep your network safe but they won't prevent a user from circumventing your security.
Using Group Policy management, along with website blacklists and whitelists to regulate what your colleagues can download or install, or click, is good practice.
3. Disable macros
Regarding the spread of malware, not all of the tricks are new. Infections still occur via macros, although newer software programs disable them by default. Make sure you keep the default settings and only download macros from verifiable and trustworthy sources. Even then, be cautious.
4. Update frequently and quickly
To stay on top of the game, you should update your operating systems, apps, and other software frequently. Updates often include security-relevant fixes, and you do not want to be missing out on them.
You can save yourself the trouble of actively looking for updates by setting up notifications to let you know when they are available or by setting up automatic downloads.
Many victims of the WannaCry attack were using out-of-date software, such as Windows XP, Server 2003, Windows 7 and Server 2008 and could have avoided the attack had they been using up-to-date operating systems.
Find out if your security is really secure.