Ransomware is starting to gain more mainstream attention as media attention increases. Ransomware is a different, yet familiar type of cyber attack that can happen to just about anyone. Ransomware is when someone takes hold of your valuable data and then they demand that you pay them, typically in some sort of digital currency, if you want your data back. For businesses, this can be detrimental to them because they literally lose access to all their customer data, financials, etc. A few years ago, many hospitals in the United Kingdom fell victim to this type of attack. Hospital records and other pertinent confidential information was held captive, bringing the hospital networks down to a halt. Individuals are not immune to this type of attack. The only difference is that most individuals do not create the type of valuable information that attackers are looking for. This is mainly why ransomware attacks go after government entities, small and large businesses, but anyone can become a target. Everyone should protect themselves from ransomware, regardless of the type of data you have.
Before we go into how to protect yourself from a ransomware attack, let us first discuss what you can do today to reduce the risk of losing your data. Ransomware attacks typically encrypt the location of where your valuable data is stored. Usually this is the hard drive, or server environment for a business. The attacker will make a demand for money or something of value to them in exchange for freeing your data. Keep in mind that the attacker does not have to release your data, even after a payment is done. So, what can you do to protect yourself? The most simple solution is to backup your data. There are many different methods and strategies for backing up your data. Most large businesses have plans in place to backup their data, but small businesses and individuals do not typically have any kind of backup discipline set up. How often you backup your data is really up to you and the level of risk you want to carry. Having backups is a good practice even if you are not trying to protect yourself against cyber attacks and other non cyber attacks such as hard drive failure. At the very minimum, you should be backing up your data once a week. There are many software solutions out there that make this possible, so do some research and pick your favorite. If you are creating data on a day to day basis for yourself or for your business, then I would recommend you backup every night. If the data you have is extremely valuable, then hourly backups might be the way to go. While backup up your data does not protect you against a ransomware attack, it at least allows you to recover without falling victim to the demands brought forth by the attacker.
As far as actual protection from ransomware, there is no easy solution. You need to protect yourself in layers by using safe passwords, encrypting your hard drives, not falling victim to phishing attacks. You need to be a good steward of cyber security at all times. There is no fool proof way to protect yourself from a ransomware attack. You just need to remain vigilant and backup your data!