The last thing that you want to have happen to your computer and the files you have stored on it is for everything to be compromised by ransomware. All it takes is one wrong click to find yourself locked out of your own computer with your files held “ransom” by hackers and cyber criminals. Your work files, your photos, your most sensitive personal and financial information — they may all be held ransom for huge figures and if you don’t pay, you lose them for good or, worse, hackers get them. It is thus essential to take these five steps to avoid a ransomware attack.
1. Be Careful What You Click
Above all, never click on a link that looks at all suspicious. This includes links whose source is uncertain. If you don’t know where a link came from or why you might be receiving one, do not click it. Tricking users to click on such links is one of the favourite tactics of hackers, phishers, and those behind ransomware.
2. Beware Suspicious Messages from “Friends”
You should also be careful about links purporting to be from those you know but that still look suspicious. One common trick that ransomware attackers use is to post links from friends purporting to be “on vacation” and “needing help” financially, promising to “pay you back later.” If you don’t remember your friends telling you that they were taking a trip to Ukraine and suddenly need you to wire them thousands of dollars, chances are it’s a scam.
Do not open the link.
Do not respond.
Contact your friends via other means — Facebook, WhatsApp, text, etc. — and tell them immediately because even if you don’t click, your friends’ bank information may have been compromised and they need to know so they can address the issue.
3. Be Careful Where and What You Download
Only download from sites that you trust and that are verified as safe. Besides email phishing links, suspicious websites are one of the most common ways of infecting computers with ransomware.
4. Use VPNs in Public
If you are using public WiFi, you may be at increased danger of a ransomware attack. Public WiFi is typically less secure and thus offers less protection against viruses and cyberattacks. Making use of a good VPN in public places can help keep your computer more secure when it is at its most vulnerable.
5. Give Public Information Cautiously
It is impractical to say “Don’t give out information on the Internet.” So much of life today is bound up in online activity, from work to socializing to shopping, that giving out some personal details to some sites is all but inevitable.
That said, you should be smart and cautious about the sites to which you give out information. Just as you should not download things or click links from sites you’ve never heard of, you should be extremely cautious about giving such sites any personal information. A site such as Amazon or an established bank is secure and safe. A random site without a verified URL is not.
To protect yourself against ransomware, you must keep calm, stay smart, and be discerning about what you do and who you trust online.