The rise of ransomware is a growing threat.
What You Can Do with the Rise of Ransomware
1. Have a recent backup of your computer files
First, make sure you have a recent backup of your computer files. Cloud-based backups are particularly useful because they’re stored offsite and beyond the reach of cybercriminals.
2. Keep your computer software up to date
Second, keep your computer software up to date. This includes both your operating system and programs like your web browser. Many security updates fix vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to install ransomware without anyone knowing about it.
3. Be careful what websites you visit
Third, be careful what websites you visit. Some websites host malicious code that can infect your computer or smartphone with malware like ransomware.
Even if a website isn’t actively trying to infect your device, it can happen by accident—such as when you follow an infected ad to a new page. To avoid this, only visit websites you know and trust—and make sure any ads you see have been approved by the Better Business Bureau.
4. Be careful about clicking on email links and attachments
Even if they come from people or companies that you know and trust. Never open an attachment or click on a link if you don’t know what it contains—and never click on links that tell you to update software unless they come from trusted websites. If you think a link might be unsafe, enter the main website address directly into your web browser rather than following the link in the email.
5. Use a credit card instead of a debit card
If you have to use a credit card, for example for a hotel reservation, keep in mind that you’re less likely to be held liable for unauthorized charges if your credit card number is stolen than if your debit card number is stolen.
6. If your computer is infected with ransomware, don’t pay the ransom
In most cases, paying the ransom won’t unlock your computer. It will only encourage more criminals to use ransomware and make it more profitable for them. Instead, contact law enforcement and ask them how to unlock your computer. For example, the FBI has a free service that can help you unlock certain types of ransomware that don’t permanently damage computers or files.
7. If your computer is infected with ransomware, report it to the FBI
If you think your computer has been infected with ransomware, contact your local FBI field office. The FBI is investigating malicious software attacks, including ransomware. It has dedicated agents who are actively working to identify and apprehend those responsible for ransomware infections.
8. Use a virtual machine to browse the web
If you’re very concerned about getting infected with ransomware, consider using a virtual machine to browse the web. Virtual machines essentially emulate another computer and can be used to browse the web without exposing your real computer to malware.
9. Use a security suite that includes anti-ransomware protection
These programs often include an option for blocking ransomware.
10. Use a password manager and enable two-factor authentication on your accounts
Password managers make it easier to use unique, hard-to-guess passwords for each of your accounts—and they can also help you remember them when you need them most (like when restoring access to your computer).
Two-factor authentication makes it harder for criminals to break into your accounts because they’ll also need something else like a password or PIN. It also means that criminals won’t be able to log in even if they steal your password database since they won’t have the other piece of information needed for access.