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Thursday, May 4, 2017
4 Ways to Protect Your Computer from Ransomware
Viruses and other forms of malware have been around for awhile now, but ransomware represents a whole new level of online threat. Unlike the first computer viruses, which sought to destroy data, and the later forms of malware which sought to steal it, ransomware actually holds your files hostage until you pay a ransom to get them back.
The required ransom for the return of the data varies widely, from a couple hundred dollars to thousands or tens of thousands when large businesses and critical infrastructure like hospitals and government agencies are targeted. Regardless of the amount demanded, a ransomware infection is an extremely scary and dangerous thing.
Even worse, once your system has been compromised the same ransomware bandits could strike again, taking your data hostage and holding you up for even more money. As with earlier forms of computer hacking and malware infection, the best way to protect against the growing threat of ransomware is prevention. Here are 4 smart ways to keep ransomware off your computer and out of your life.
#1. Keep Your System Up to Date
Keeping your computer up to date is one of the best ways to protect yourself from all kinds of malware, including ransomware. Software and hardware manufacturers discover new vulnerabilities all the time, and when they do they issue patches and updates. Installing those patches and updates promptly is the best way to prevent ransomware writers from exploiting those vulnerabilities.
#2. Use a Good Spam Filter
Many malware infections, including ransomware, originate with an email written and sent by the bad guys. Using a powerful spam filter is one of the best ways to protect yourself from these threats. Check your inbox carefully and be sure to mark any suspicious messages as spam. Over time, the spam filter will learn which messages are legitimate and which ones are not, filtering out dangerous messages before you even see them.
#3. Think Before You Click
Even the best spam filter cannot catch every suspicious email, and it is up to you to use common sense and good judgment. Always think before you click, and be suspicious of any email containing embedded links. If in doubt, contact the sender to verify the authenticity of the message, or go directly to the sender's website rather than clicking the emailed link.
#4. Back Up Your Data Frequently
Threatening to hold your files hostage does not carry the same level of threat if you have a backup copy ready. Backing up your data on a daily basis is perhaps the best way to protect against the threat of ransomware. If you have a current backup and a ransomware infection does strike, you can simply clean your computer and download your backed up files. Cloud backup services make this kind of protection easier than ever before, so there is no reason not to do it.
Ransomware is a growing threat, and one that is only expected to get worse in the future. If you want to protect your computer, it is not enough to install anti-virus software and forget it. You need to take proactive steps, and use your own common sense, to keep the bad guys at bay and keep your data protected.
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