Protect Yourself from Ransomware Attacks

Tens of thousands of computers across 150 countries have been hit by a Ransomware attack in the past week. Victims include large organizations such as UK’s National Health Service, Russia’s Interior Ministry, and FedEx. With the attack reaching systems across the globe the malicious software, dubbed WannaCry, has affected Canadian computer systems with more infections expected to hit throughout this week.


Like other Ransomware WannaCry encrypts files on a computer, rendering them useless, until a ransom is paid. Unfortunately, the hackers responsible for these attacks don’t always undo the encryption once they’ve been paid. As such, it’s important to protect yourself from being infected. Here’s how:


Install Updates and Patches

Ever wonder why updates are constantly released for operating systems? The fact is, that operating systems have security vulnerabilities. When updates are released, they patch these vulnerabilities making it difficult for hackers to exploit them. Therefore, one of the best ways to protect yourself is to download and install updates as they’re released.


In the case of WannaCry, hackers are exploiting a vulnerability found on Windows XP systems. While Microsoft has officially terminated support for XP, they released an emergency patch to help users protect their systems. With support for XP having been terminated, more of these vulnerabilities are likely to appear in the future. The best way to protect yourself in the long term if you’re an XP user is to upgrade your system to Windows 10, which has remained unaffected by WannaCry.


Install & Update Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is designed to protect systems from a wide range of malicious attacks. This software is also updated to include protection from new malicious software on a regular basis. As you might guess, this means that you should perform updates on your antivirus as they become available. It’s important to note that having an up-to-date antivirus installed isn’t foolproof but it drastically reduces your security risk.


Back Up Your Computer

As I mentioned, Ransomware renders your files unusable and it’s not always possible to get them back intact. One way to prevent losing valuable data is to backup your system on a regular basis. If your system is backed up, you can recover your files using a backup. Your backup regime should include a physical method, like an external hard drive or network attached storage (NAS), and a cloud-based method, like CrashPlan.


If you’ve taken all of these precautions, you should be able to secure your system and data against malicious software.

By Mike Agerbo

May 16, 2017