Protect Yourself From Cybercriminals

Mar 25 2021

Just one click and your life could get complicated. All it takes is opening an email attachment or clicking on a link in an email, and your saved photos, tax records – all the personal files you’ve stored on your computer – could be held for ransom.

Cybercriminals recently hijacked hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, demanding money in exchange for the data they found. Ransomware – a type of software installed on your computer or mobile device against your will – allows hackers to hold your files for ransom until you pay to get them back.


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says ransomware is one of the most serious online threats facing people and businesses today, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

 

1. Use antivirus software, and keep it updated.

If possible, the FTC suggests setting your operating system, web browser, and security software to update automatically on your computer. (You may have to do it manually on mobile devices.)


The recent ransomware attack, known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt, took advantage of a security hole in Windows operating system software. The FTC says a Microsoft update fixed the hole, but many ransomware victims had not installed the update or were using unsupported versions of Windows.

 

2. Watch out for suspicious emails.

Most ransomware is downloaded through phishing emails – emails designed to deceive recipients and trick them into giving out their private information. Don’t reply to emails, texts or messages that ask for personal or financial information. Be cautious when opening attachments, downloading files, and clicking on links within e-mails, regardless of who sent them to you. Attackers are improving their techniques and often try to persuade you to open, download, or click a link to weaken your computer's security.


“In most cases, the best approach to dealing with suspicious messages is to simply delete them,” says Eric Andring, Bell Bank’s information security officer.


The FTC says you can also get ransomware from visiting compromised websites and through malicious online ads.

 

3. Make it a regular practice to back up your important files on your computers and mobile devices.

When you’re done, the FTC suggests you log out of the cloud and unplug your external hard drives. That way, hackers can’t encrypt and lock your back-up files.


If you’ve already fallen victim to a ransomware attack, learn how to deal with it on the FTC’s website.

 

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