The absolute best step you can take to avoid the high costs associated with ransomware is to back up your files regularly. It’s best to back up files to the cloud or to a hard drive or removable media such as a CD or flash drive that isn’t connected to the network. That way, you will be able to recover important files in case of infection or malicious encryption. You can get rid of or clean the infected machine and remove the malware from your network, then recover your files from the backup.
- Apply patches and software updates. Set your computer and software programs to check for updates periodically or update automatically. This avoids having flaws in your system that could make your computer or network vulnerable to a cyberattack.
- Install and update antivirus software. There are many antivirus and antimalware programs available, ranging in cost from free to several hundred dollars, depending on your needs and budget. Make sure your computer is protected with at least basic antivirus software. Even more importantly, make sure the software is set to update automatically when you connect to the Internet and that it is set to scan your system regularly. Many users have antivirus software on their machines that hasn’t been updated in months, or even years. Malware is constantly changing, and updated software will protect against the latest threats.
- Use a firewall. You can also purchase software that controls who and what can communicate with your computer over the internet. A firewall will block suspicious traffic that could indicate a cyberattack, and only let in communications known to be safe.
- Configure your computer securely. Your computer’s web browser and other functionalities can be set so that it is harder to visit unsecure websites or take other potentially unsafe actions. This can be a help, particularly if you are inexperienced using a computer or share the machine with others who might be. Your computer vendor’s help service should be able to assist you in configuring security settings if you don’t know how to do it.
Even with all these security measures in place, you still need to be on alert . Cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated--and remember, their only aim is to get you to take some unintentional action that infects your computer or network. With that in mind, avoid clicking on pop-ups, ads, and email links. Ransomware is often downloaded to a computer when a user clicks on a seemingly innocent online ad or link. It then encrypts the files and demands the ransom.