Ransomware and the Importance of Data Security

22 May 2017

By now, you might have seen the news of a major cyberattack that affected over 230,000 computers worldwide. The WannaCry virus was classified as being ransomware, which was a new concept to many people seeing it for the first time. This resulted in being unaware of the full extent the damage it caused on affected users.

The IT infrastructure of Diversify was not affected in any for, thanks largely to our team that takes data security seriously. It then becomes important to understand the severity of the WannaCry virus and how to prevent it and future cyberattacks from affecting you.

Files Held Hostage

Ransomware is a type of malware that affects your PC by encrypting and locking all your files, making them inaccessible. Once this happens, it will give detailed instructions on how to retrieve your files. This often requires paying fee – like a ransom – or you risk losing all your files after a number of days.

Currently, there is no way to get rid of WannaCry if a computer is infected except for paying the ransom. Security experts highly discourage this practice as it drives more people to continue spreading the virus. Inexperienced attackers may also become motivated to join the bandwagon.

How It Gets You

Of course, a computer can never be infected unless the infected file is opened. This may sound easy to avoid, but attackers have improvised methods to get more people to opening the file.
Two of the most common methods are:

E-mail Spoofing and File Attachments

Culprits can mask a real email address and make it appear as if it came from someone you know. The “email” can come from your boss, a family member or co-worker and with an attachment containing the infected file. The file itself could also have a familiar icon that makes it seem safe such as a Word Document or Adobe PDF.

Users must always take precaution in opening file attachments, even if they appear to be from someone familiar. The real email address from the sender can be seen by looking at the full details. This may depend on your provider, but Google has instructions on how to identify them.

Fake Software Applications

You may get an infected file when you download something that is unverified. Plenty of pirated software do not have a serial key and will require a key generator (or “keygen”) to unlock. A streaming site might also require you to download and run software in order to view videos. Lastly, it could be a link that pretends to be your bank, asking you to download and open a form. It is alarming that the possibilities are not limited to these examples.

To prevent this from happening, it is important to always verify the source of download files and avoid piracy. It also helps to refrain from visiting questionable websites.

Protecting Yourself From Ransomware

The spread of the WannaCry ransomware was not the first major worldwide cyberattack, nor will it be the last. We’ve covered some simple steps on how to avoid problems brought by it. To increase your own personal security, you can follow some additional tips:

1. Install reliable Antivirus software – There are plenty of Antivirus programs that you can use to protect yourself. Many require a fee to install, but some reliable ones are free to download. Whichever you choose, it is important to make sure that they are also being updated regularly. You need to also ensure that important Windows Updates are installed in your computer.

– As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Investing in an external hard drive to back your files up can save you weeks and months of your hard work. A weekly backup every month is a good one practice that needs to happen more often.

If you are unable to invest in a hard drive, take advantage of cloud storage. By doing this, you may restore your work anywhere you are and not redo what you may have just lost.

With a bit more cautiousness where you browse and how you receive files, you can prevent the spread of malicious software.