How to prevent ransomware?

Ransomware is a treacherous form of malware that penetrate computers and mobile devices to hijack valuable files for ransom. With the growing number of attacks, it’s essential that you make ransomware protection a part of your digital life. Fortunately, learning how to avoid ransomware is as simple as it is important. Here are some methods to defend against ransomware on your Apple, Windows, and Android devices. 

How to prevent ransomware?
How to prevent ransomware? | Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  • Keep antivirus software up to date

One of the best ways to stop ransomware attacks is to prevent malware from accessing your computer or device. The first thing you must take action on is installing a quality and effective antivirus program that has a powerful ransomware protection tool. To defend against the constant creation of new strains of ransomware, keep your antivirus software up to date at all times. Most programs do this for you automatically, but if you want extra security, take a moment each week to check for new updates.

 To activate this setting, follow these steps:

  • Open the app.
  • Tap the three horizontal stripes menu icon ≡ in the upper left corner.
  • Tap Settings.
  • Tap Protection.
  • Turn on Web Shield with Accessibility.
  • Follow the instructions on the screen.
  • Beware of popup installation requests

Popups rarely appear to help us. Whenever you are online, and a popup request appears asking you to update, download or install some software or plug-in, close it without taking any action. Vigilance is essential in preventing ransomware from infiltrating your devices and networks. The next time you’re on a site and a notice tell you, for example, that you need to update Adobe Flash to view the content, get the latest version directly from the source. This applies to all software update popups.

  • Think twice before clicking on links

Phishing scams remain the most popular way to distribute malware. For example, the aforementioned ransomware attack on Lake City, Florida, in 2019 was initiated when an official clicked on a malicious link contained in a harmless-looking email. Cyber-hijackers also distribute their ransomware via mobile devices, using text messages and social media messaging apps. Don’t click on links you receive from undisclosed contacts via SMS, email, or messaging apps like Skype or WhatsApp. Even if you trust you know the sender, take a closer look at both their direction and the link itself before clicking. If something seems strange to you, do not take the requested action.

  • Don’t download apps from unknown sources

If you want to download apps to your computer or mobile device, stick to trusted sources like the Microsoft Store, the Apple App Store, and the Google Play Store, and avoid third-party app stores. Although there are legitimate online stores for PC and Mac, such as CNET’s Download.com and Steam, third-party mobile app stores are notorious for their abundance of scams. To add an extra coating of security, go to your device settings and disable the ability to install apps from undisclosed sources. You should also be doubtful if an app requests device administrator permissions. Granting this permission enables the app owner to access the device remotely, which of course, is a terrible idea.

  • Back up all important files on your device

In the occasion of a ransomware attack, having your most essential and valuable files backed up will help contain the damage. The best way to prevent loss of data is to use a mixture of online and offline storage methods. Store your files on one or more physical devices (e.g., external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards) and cloud storage services (e.g., Dropbox, Box, Google Drive). That way, if you do get hit by a ransomware attack, you’ll be ready to replace all your vital files as soon as you take away the ransomware from your device.

  • Update the operating system and applications

As irritating as Windows, Apple, and Android system update prompts are, you should never ignore them. Many of these updates include essential security patches to prevent ransomware and other malware from infiltrating your devices.

If you are still using an older control system that Microsoft no longer supports, such as Windows XP, you are mainly vulnerable to attack. Do yourself a tremendous favor and upgrade to a newer operating system. You should also keep all your software up to date, especially web browsers and their plug-ins.

Can’t I just pay the ransom?

No, be clear that you do not have to pay the ransom. And you should also not try to negotiate with the criminals responsible for the attack.

Although we have seen some state and local governments in the United States give in to the demands of cyber-hijackers, they are exceptions to the rule: only 17 percent pay to recover their data in the face of a ransomware attack.

Your payment is likely to fund the development and release of new strains of ransomware, as well as other possible criminal activities. If you refuse to pay, you could help other potential victims avoid future attacks. Also, there is no guarantee that you will get your files back: in some cases, hijackers sent useless decryption keys; in others, not even that. Although they will prefer to maintain an honorable reputation to inspire trust in their victims, there is no such thing as honor among cyber thieves.

Preventing ransomware is better than curing it.

Even though in some situations, it is possible to get rid of the ransomware and recover your files, it can be difficult. Note that we say “in some cases”: only for some strains, there are free and publicly available decryption keys. And because ransomware attacks are so lucrative, cyber criminals keep developing new strains. Save yourself a lot of hours, energy, and hassle by following the tips in this article to directly keep ransomware off your device.

But instead of relying on your own judgment to avoid malicious popups, downloads, and links, you can protect your files with Avast’s ransomware protection tool. It’s just one of the many cybersecurity countermeasures you’ll enjoy with Avast Free Antivirus-the top-rated free anti-malware solution trusted by over 400 million people worldwide, created by privacy and security experts. So remember: stay up-to-date, browse safely, back up frequently, save to the cloud and external hardware, and install antivirus software with ransomware protection. All of these practices will help you keep your devices and files safe and live more peacefully.

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