Ransomware & How To Avoid It

A quick explanation about ransomware AKA wannacry, what it is, what it does, and how to avoid it.

ransomware and security

In it’s basic form ransomware is a rogue program that, once on your system and active, systematically goes through files and folders encrypting the data with a password as it goes. Very similar to encrypting zip files with a password before emailing them. Earlier version of ransomware manifested themselves as popups that informed you of an illegal act that had been committed on your computer/device and unless a ransom was paid the authorities would be informed. The latter can be quite easy to sort out, the former can be difficult if not impossible to sort out. Even if the the ransom is paid there is a good chance that you will never see your files again.

be safe online

How can you stop this from happening to you or your company?

Well first thing to do is make sure that:

1. You are running the latest version of your operating system

2. All updates have been installed

3. You have good internet security installed, this includes Apple Mac users.

Now we’ll take this a little further: Don’t open every email. If you don’t recognise the sender or the email seems a little strange send it to trash. If you really are unsure as to whether or not the email is genuine and need to click on it to check its contents. Look carefully at the email, the text, layout, wording etc. If the wording seems strange and generic, an email that is worded in such a way that it can be sent to several thousand people because the content is not specific, and especially if there are links to websites or there are pictures/videos embedded in the page. DO NOT CLICK ON ANYTHING. Trash the email, even if it turns out that the email was from a genuine source, the sender should have known better than to send a generic email out.

For all those e-mailers out there: Try to get out of the habit of sending blanket or carbon-copy emails. Writing a single generic email, then choosing to send to everyone in a group or all your contacts. If your system has been compromised and your address book, contacts list has been rifled through, that is the first thing that the virus/malware will do. All your contacts/friends won’t know any different because you send generic emails…STOP. Make them a little more personal then your friends and customers can tell the email is specific to them and has genuinely been sent by you.

Another thing to look out for is when you’re generally surfing the web take care not to click on any old link just because it has shown up in a google search. As I mentioned before; by now you should have decent internet security software installed, if you have then you will probably have noticed that an extension will have been added to your browser (chrome, Firefox, explorer etc). These can be very useful, checking the site before you actually click on the link. You can usually tell whether or not you have a security browser extension installed, all the searches will have a little green, grey, red icon after each individual search result. Informing you about the security of the site before you actually click on the link.

Social sites such has Facebook, Twitter etc, are the perfect platform for anyone wanting to launch viruses or malware attacks. Most people don’t take the time to check who messages are from they just dive in to see the content. Fatal, especially if you click to view a picture, video or link, and even worse if once you have clicked on a pic or link and then been informed that some software or program needs updating in order for you to view the file. You can almost guarantee that the software update is a virus, ,malware, Trojan etc. If in doubt, make a note of the software or program mentioned, sign out, and go directly to the genuine site that update mentioned and install the update or program from there…better to be safe than sorry.

What you should do: If you suspect that your computer/system may be infected and are on a network at work or home report it straight away. Ransomware is a ‘worm’ which means it can replicate and transmit itself across local networks and attack vulnerable systems who’s software and security is not up to date.

Make sure your system is up to date. Invest in decent Internet Security Software. Be vigilant, check emails and messages before opening them, especially attachments. Don’t just blindly follow links after searching the web.

Hope this helps….Minion Dave.