Ransomware – What you can do

You’ve probably heard in the news about the current cyber-attack that’s affecting organisations all over the world, including the NHS. So, what is it and how can you protect yourself?

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is software that gets installed on a computer and either encrypts files on the computer or network, or locks the user’s screen and makes demands for money to unlock the computer/files. They generally don’t demand millions, but the scale of the attacks are an attempt to collect money very quickly before the issue is patched. You’re expected to pay money to the attackers in return for a ‘key’ which will unlock your computer, but it’s not guaranteed that they’ll hand one over.

Whilst the current cyber-attack seems to be targeting out of date versions of Microsoft Windows, they can target any device, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones.

What can you do?

Make sure your device is up-to-date

Patches for operating systems and applications are generally released regularly so make sure when you’re prompted to install an update that you do it. Also, make sure you’re on the latest version of software – many companies find it difficult to update software as regularly as they should due to functional, logistical or financial reasons, and this is what makes them prone to attacks like this. Can you imagine how many devices the NHS has to update?

Create regular backups

Also, make sure you’ve got a regular backup of important files, but don’t think that storing these in the cloud makes them safe. If ransomware locks your files on your computer and you automatically sync these to, for example, Dropbox, you’ve just uploaded locked files to that folder too!

Make regular backups to an external hard drive, or a pen drive that’s not left connected to your computer all the time.

Be vigilant

Many of these types of cyber-attacks start from someone clicking a link in an email or opening an attachment on an email they’re received which looks genuine. Be careful to check the origin of the email and if in doubt contact the sender separately to check if the email is really from them.

Install anti-virus

Make sure all your devices have anti-virus software installed, and make sure that you keep it up-to-date.

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