In this digital day and age, most people work on computers every day as part of their job and/or use tech for personal reasons, whether to communicate with friends and family, engage in social media, watch videos online, research goods and travel or something else.
While computers have brought a lot to our lives and transformed the world for good in many ways, there are numerous downsides we all recognize, too. In particular, cybercriminals are cleverer than ever at finding ways into people’s systems, so they can steal data, learn information and crash networks.
In particular, a digital threat that has become among the most dangerous and expensive in recent years is ransomware. Each year, millions of individuals and businesses around the world are affected by this kind of attack, and they lose money as well as time and energy. As such, it’s vital to take steps to increase your online security so you can keep hackers at bay. Read on for a rundown on what ransomware is and how it works plus some tips for how you can best protect yourself.
This particularly nasty strategy used by hackers in recent times is designed to make them money and sometimes to purposely cause victims to stress, too. It works by cybercriminals breaking into computer systems remotely and then holding for ransom the data they get access to.
Hackers make money from this scheme by stopping people from using their own information. Thieves tell owners the only way they can get their data back, or access their systems again as if they pay the hackers a set amount of money.
Typically, hackers break into computers, use their tech expertise to boot users off their own systems and put new logins in place that owners won’t be able to guess. They contact the people involved and tell them they must pay a ransom to receive the password that will unlock their computer (or website or blog etc.). Alternatively, hackers break in, give themselves an encrypted copy of all the files on the computer or network and then delete the original versions. They then tell owners a ransom must be paid for the data to be reinstated.
On occasions, cybercriminals take a different path and steal confidential files, which are more valuable and which could be embarrassing or life-destroying if they got out. They threaten people with the news that they will release the information to the public domain unless a ransom is paid. This often covers things like trade secrets, patents, risqué photos and videos, and legal documents.
One of the big problems for victims of ransomware, apart from the obvious stress and loss of time and money, is that hackers don’t always stick to their word. Even if people go ahead and pay the ransom, this doesn’t guarantee that information will be returned or not leaked to the public.
Tips for Your Safety
Another tip is to create strong passwords for not just all your computers and Wi-Fi router but also the sites you log into online, where hackers could find a way into your systems. Passwords need to be at least twelve characters in length and made up of a mixture of numbers, letters, and symbols. Update these passwords often as well as the various security software and other programs you use on your computers. If these aren’t updated, security gaps can form and hackers can find ways in.
It’s also imperative that you back up your data. This way, if you ever do get stung by a ransomware attack, you won’t be so stressed, lose so much time or have to pay the ransom. When backing up, do this to a storage system separate to anything in your home and not connected to other devices. It helps to both back up to the cloud and have a physical storage drive you keep offsite to be safe.