How can you protect yourself against Ransomware?
Every 11 seconds, someone, somewhere in the world suffers from a devastating ransomware attack.
By the time you read this sentence, at least 1 organization would have been targeted by cybercriminals for extortion money.
Is this an endless loop of getting hacked, paying ransom, and again getting hacked? When will this vicious cycle come to an end?
Ransomware is the latest tool used by hackers as part of their 5th generation warfare where hackers attack an entire network and hold their information hostage until a payment is made.
Some scary stats about ransomware
Ransomware remains the most dominant cybersecurity threat. Attacks range from individual data being held until a fee is paid, to an entire network of gas pipelines in the US and everything in between.
In fact, in 2021, an insurance company paid out a whopping $40 million in extortion money just to get their data back. That was the single biggest payment of its kind, setting a new and scary world record.
Is antivirus the solution to ransomware?
With an ever-increasing amount of ransomware attacks, it can be safely assumed that antiviruses may have failed in providing the level of protection their clients would need. But that’s not it.
It’s like blaming the car manufacturer for an accident if you don’t know how to drive safely. And the same goes for using antivirus protection.
Antiviruses work by scanning your entire set of data including files and folders against their codes to the codes of malware, and viruses in the database.
If a scan matches, the file is either removed or quarantined.
To detect and successfully mitigate a ransomware attack, it is important for the antivirus to have the code for that virus/ransomware in their database or else it may go undetected.
With hundreds of types of new ransomware strains launching day in and out, it is simply not possible for any antivirus software to detect them all. Especially not instantly.
Gathering a list of known ransomware codes and updating the database is a major undertaking for any AV company and this needs to be done constantly.
But the fact remains, individuals and companies are suffering from cyber attacks and it could be because of the following reasons:
- You kept on ignoring the warnings of antivirus.
- You kept on downloading torrents after disabling your antivirus.
- Despite warnings of suspicious links, you still clicked that link in an email.
- You failed to regularly update your antivirus database.
- You don’t have anti-virus protection on your mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
- You don’t update your software that contains the latest security fixes.
Remember that for an attack to occur, the hackers look for the weakest entry point. Typically this is done when finding old hardware and software that has known vulnerabilities and has not been updated with patched to close those security holes.
Once a hacker is in your network, it is far easier to move around the network behind the firewall.
What should I do to keep myself safe?
You need to practice cyber hygiene to reduce your chances of getting compromised. Some of the best practices include:
- Use complicated passwords – Did you know that 123456, password, picture1 are still some of the most commonly used passwords in 2021? People still use passwords that hackers can easily guess with simple Dictionary-style attacks where they throw common words at the password and eventually find one that works. However, when using a strong password with a combination of small and capital letters, symbols, and numerics this makes the attack much harder.
- Do not share your personal information so readily – Even today, people receive calls that seem to be coming from the bank with the other person on the line in a hurry to get all the personal information to verify against the records due to the “latest security breach.” Don’t be so quick to assume that the call is legit. Rather tell them you will phone customer services and use the number on the back of your card and not a number they give you to call.
- Keep your operating system and antivirus updated – There are zero-day vulnerabilities that developers routinely find and release patches to fix them. Updating your Windows/Mac and the antivirus software to the latest version indeed greatly reduces your chances of getting compromised.
- Never use open Wi-Fi networks – Free W-Fi is commonplace for hackers to launch Man-In-The-Middle attacks. This is where they set up their software and broadcast “Free Internet” hoping to lure people to use their internet access and by doing so, they can monitor all the usernames and passwords that are transparently being sent via the hacker’s laptop.
- Use a VPN – always use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your data as it leaves your computer so that even if a hacker does manage to intercept your traffic, they can not do anything with it.
- Two-Factor Authentication – always use 2-Factor Authentication and use hardware as a key and not SMS for the password. This means that a hacker can guess your password but would then require physical access to your hardware key to access the account.
Prevention is always better than cure. In a digitally connected world, prevention isn’t just better, it’s also the most economical solution. A combination of cyber safety and antivirus should do wonders in hardening the safety of your system, and minimizing chances of attacks.
And as always, being security-aware is always the best preventative measure against being scammed.