How to keep your data safe from ransomware in 2021?


What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that takes over your computer and encrypts all of the data on it. The ransomware then demands that you send them money to get back access to your encrypted data, e.g the Crypt Malware.

How exactly does ransomware infect computers?

There are many ways that ransomware can infect a computer, but it usually just requires users to open up email attachments or click on links in emails. Sometimes people will download malicious files onto their computer after clicking on ad banners or visiting certain websites. If you see an unsolicited email sent to you with an attachment or link inside, do not click on it! If you get rid of the email without opening it, you should be fine. How do I keep myself protected from ransomware?   Unfortunately, there is no one way to stay 100% protected from ransomware.

Do you think you’re a potential target of ransomware?

Several factors might make you the target of a ransomware attack.

The first thing to look at is the data you have available on your computer – do you have valuable files? If so, what kind of files are they?

The second thing you should ask yourself is whether or not people would pay a ransom for your data. If it’s business-related data, the answer will probably be yes. However, if it is personal documents and photos, chances are no one will pay up for this information because there isn’t anything valuable in it.

  • The device used is not updated/has outdated software
  • Patches for the browsers and/or operating systems are no longer being applied.
  • You do not have a backup plan in place
  • There isn’t enough attention paid to security on your devices, and there is no strategy in place.

There are, however, some steps you can take to decrease your chances of getting infected with ransomware.

  • Never click on dodgy links: If you receive a spam message or visit an unfamiliar website, don’t click on any links in it. If you follow dangerous links, your computer may be compromised by an automatic download.
  • Do not respond to potentially dangerous email attachments: Ransomware may also be delivered to your computer through email attachments. Open doubtful attachments with caution. Examine the sender and make sure the address is correct before opening any emails. Never open attachments that urge you to execute macros to view them. Opening a malicious macro contained within an attachment will give malware control of your PC if you open it.
  • USB sticks: If you don’t know where the USB sticks or other storage media you’re connecting to your PC came from, don’t connect them. Some USB sticks could have ransomware that only requires a click to spread.
  • Use only known download sources: Never download software or media files from unfamiliar locations to minimize the chance of infection by ransomware. Downloads should be made using verified and trustworthy sources. Websites that meet these criteria are identified by trust seals. Tip: Make sure the address bar on the page you’re visiting uses “HTTPS” rather than “HTTP.” A shield or lock symbol in the address bar can indicate that a website is secure. When downloading anything to your smartphone, exercise caution.
  • Access public wifi with caution: Using public Wi-Fi connections cautiously is a smart precaution against ransomware. When you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, your computer becomes more vulnerable to assaults. To stay safe, avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions or use a secure VPN service.
  • Keep your programs and operating system up to date: Updating software and operating systems regularly help to keep you safe from malware. When performing updates, be sure to get the most up-to-date security patches. This makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to utilize vulnerabilities in your programs.
  • Do not disclose personal information to a stranger: If you get a call, text message, or email from an unknown source asking for personal information, do not respond. Ransomware coders who are preparing for a ransomware assault may attempt to collect personal information in advance to better tailor phishing emails to you. If you’re unsure whether the communication is genuine, contact the sender directly.


What should you do when you’ve been infected with ransomware?

The first thing you should do when finding out that you’ve been hit by ransomware is to power off your computer and disconnect it from any internet connections (WiFi or Ethernet). Disconnecting from the network prevents the encryption key (required to decrypt your files) from being sent and prevents any further damage from occurring. After doing this, perform a full scan using whatever antivirus solution you have installed on your machine. If anything comes up, follow the instructions provided by the antivirus software to remove it. Sometimes you’ll need to complete a series of steps in a specific order, so make sure you read through the instructions carefully.

It is always a good idea to get in a technician that can verify that your computer is clean before using it again.

Once your machine is back to a clean state, then you can focus on restoring from backup. You should be doing this regularly anyway, but it’s especially important if you’ve been hit by ransomware. Once restored, your computer will need another full scan to ensure that every bit of the ransomware was removed and nothing else has been installed. In most cases, simply restoring from backups and performing system scans with your antivirus software will be enough to get rid of ransomware and keep all of your files safe for good.

However, if the encryption process was too far along before you disconnected or powered off your machine or before you were able to restore from your backups, or if you didn’t have any backup or other recovery option available to you at the time, ransomware will prevent you from accessing any of the content on your hard drive.

Most ransomware can encrypt an unlimited number of files until it’s removed by either restoring from a backup or scanning with anti-virus software. However, newer strains are capable of locking individual files and even folders in addition to entire drives. This is why it’s so important to make sure you have everything properly backed up before getting infected in the first place.

What to back up?

Back up all of your files in one backup job, so you don’t have to worry about what’s most important when restoring them later. You should also keep two backups at different locations. You can use any cloud storage service for this, but try not to use Apple iCloud Drive if you are an iOS user because it creates a local copy on your hard drive that does not get encrypted by ransomware (just like Dropbox). Make sure you test your backups every once in a while to make sure they work correctly and restore without any problems.

Other tips on how to avoid being ransomware victims

1. If your data is not up to date, purchase a new computer and restore your data from the cloud backup service or another external device

2. If you are still at risk of future ransomware attacks, buy an older computer to use as an offline storage system for large files that don’t require frequent updating

3. Use two-factor authentication on all accounts that have this feature available

Interesting Read: WannaCry Ransomware – All You Need to Know

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...