How to Protect Your PC from Ransomware

Ransomware is on the rise as cybercriminals evolve and become increasingly savvy. The consequences can be devastating for businesses that become victims of ransomware attacks. If ransomware lands in some shared locations within networks, it can completely paralyze an organization’s operations. This is why a ransomware defense strategy is vital for businesses of all sizes, not just major corporations.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) designed to hold your files or computer hostage, demanding payment for you to regain access. Ransomware has become very common because it is so profitable for criminals. Like most malware, ransomware starts by infecting your computer, most often when you open an infected attachment or click on a malicious link in a phishing email. Once ransomware infects your computer, it encrypts files on your hard drive and possibly anything else connected to your computer so that you can no longer access your files. The cybercriminal then informs you that the only way you can recover your files is to pay them a ransom. Hence the name ransomware. Sometimes, the criminals also threaten to publicly release your business’s sensitive information if you don’t pay the ransom. However, if you pay the ransom, the criminals might give you access to your files, but there are no guarantees. Sometimes they will even take your money and leave your computer infected without you knowing it or keep asking for more money.

How to Protect Against an Infection

You can protect your computer against a ransomware infection the same way you protect it against other forms of malware. Here are four key steps:

Update Your Systems and Software

Cybercriminals often infect computers or devices by taking advantage of unfixed bugs or vulnerabilities in outdated software. The more current your software is, the fewer known vulnerabilities it has, and the harder it is for cybercriminals to infect them. Therefore, a best practice you should adopt is enabling automatic updating on your operating systems, applications, and devices.

Enable Anti-Virus

Ensure you are using up-to-date antivirus software from a trusted vendor. These tools are designed to detect and stop malware. However, an antivirus cannot block or remove all malicious programs, and usually, it cannot recover your files after a ransomware infection. Cybercriminals are constantly innovating, developing new and more sophisticated infection tactics that can evade detection. Antivirus vendors are continually updating their products with new capabilities to detect malware. So you should make sure your antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans to ensure that your operating systems operate efficiently. 

Be Vigilant

Cybercriminals often trick people into installing ransomware and other malicious software through phishing email attacks. For example, a cybercriminal might send an email that looks legitimate and contains an attachment or a link. The email might appear to come from your bank or a friend. However, if you open the attached file or click the link, you could activate malicious code that infects your computer. If a message creates a strong sense of urgency or seems too good to be true, it could be an attack. Organizations must educate their employees, as they are the first line of defense to combat online threats and can actively help stop malware from infiltrating the organization’s system. A strong security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and responses tremendously helps prevent these threats. 

Back Up Your Files

It’s impractical to assume that you’ll always be able to prevent an infection. Luckily, one of the best defenses against ransomware is backups. If you have a backup of your important documents and other files, you can recover from the backup instead of paying the ransom. Therefore, it’s essential that you use an automated backup that regularly backs up all your files. Additionally, you need to test your restore procedures to make sure you can recover them if the need arises. There are numerous simple Cloud and local backup solutions that you can install on your computer that will securely and regularly back up all your files for you.

Good ransomware defense practice starts before any attacks occur. Waiting until ransomware attacks your network to take action may already be too late. From backing up your files to installing strong antivirus and firewalls and cybersecurity education, GTS can help! Give us a call at (904) 606-6011 or email today.


Paul May