What is ransomware?

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware). When it invades your device, it can fatally compromise your computer and files.

Cybercriminals use ransomware to deny you access to your files or devices. They demand a ‘ransom’ to restore your files.

Ransomware works by locking up or encrypting files so you can no longer use or access them.

Security vulnerabilities – are you a potential target of a ransomware attack?

Several factors might make you the target of a ransomware attack.

  • The devices used is/are no longer state-of-the-art
  • The device has outdated software
  • Browsers and/or operating systems are no longer patched
  • No proper backup plan exists
  • Insufficient attention has been paid to cybersecurity, and a concrete plan is not in place

If one or more points apply to the device, you risk falling victim to a ransomware attack.

How to prevent an infection

  • Never click on unsafe links: Avoid clicking on links in spam messages or unknown websites. If you click on malicious links, an automatic download can start, which will lead to your computer being infected.
  • Avoid disclosing personal information: If you receive a call, text message, or email from an untrusted source requesting personal information, do not reply. Cybercriminals planning a ransomware attack might try to collect personal information in advance. They use this to tailor phishing messages specifically to you. If you doubt whether the message is legitimate, contact the sender directly.
  • Do not open suspicious email attachments: Ransomware can also find its way to your device through email attachments. Avoid opening any dubious-looking attachments. To ensure the email is trustworthy, pay close attention to the sender and check that the address is correct. Never open attachments that prompt you to run macros to view them. If the attachment is infected, opening it will run a malicious macro that gives malware control of your computer.
  • Never use unknown USB sticks: Never connect USB sticks or other storage media to your computer if you do not know where they came from. Cybercriminals may have infected the storage medium and placed it in a public place to entice somebody into using it.
  • Keep your programs and operating system up to date: Regularly updating programs and operating systems helps protect you from malware. When performing updates, make sure you benefit from the latest security patches. This makes it harder for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in your programs.
  • Use only known download sources: Never download software or media files from unknown sites to minimise the risk of downloading ransomware. Rely on verified and trustworthy sites for downloads. The trust seals can recognise websites of this kind. Make sure that the browser address bar of the page you visit uses “https” instead of “http”. A shield or lock symbol in the address bar can indicate that the page is secure. Exercise caution when downloading anything to your mobile device.
  • Use VPN services on public Wi-Fi networks: Conscientious use of public Wi-Fi networks is a sensible protective measure against ransomware. Your computer is more vulnerable to attacks when using a public Wi-Fi network. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions or a secure VPN service to stay protected.

When ransomware strikes, your organisation needs to be notified and investigate quickly. It is essential to have backups, as this allows you to be well prepared even in a worst-case scenario.