Ransomware – this is how you beat blackmailers

These days, the definition of ransom isn’t limited to holding people hostage, but also computer data. The most recent example of ransomware is the “WannaCry” attack, which had a worldwide impact. So how should you deal with a digital hostage crisis? And what can you do to protect yourself from it?

Recently, the WannaCry ransomware attack hit Windows PCs of currently over 200,000 users, in more than 150 countries.[1] Internet criminals use it to encrypt sensitive data on PCs demanding the payment of $300 in the crypto-currency Bitcoin. If victims did not pay the ransom within seven days, blackmailers threatened to delete the encrypted data. This affected both organizations and individuals, including logistics companies like FedEx and a number of British hospitals. In the meantime, the malware’s range of impact has been mitigated. Unfortunately, ransomware is the fastest growing trend in internet crime and the next wave is undoubtedly coming. So how should you react when your own data is suddenly taken hostage?

How to deal with digital blackmail

  1. Do not pay the ransom

You’re probably thinking, “But won’t I get the files back if I pay the ransom?” Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will get your data back. Even if you did pay the ransom, you are giving proof to attackers that you are susceptible to blackmail and may be asked to pay again and again. Do not surrender to such demands.

  1. Do not click on attachments in emails

There are many ways for criminals to infect your system. One of the most common methods is through spam. If you receive an unexpected email and are asked to download a link or install a great screen saver, don’t do it. Do not click on the attachment.

  1. Keep your software up-to-date

Criminals know all about your software and the potential vulnerabilities they can use to access your computer. Therefore, make sure that updates and patches are set to install automatically in order to close any known weaknesses in your system. Doing so will prevent missing any updates that keep your system safe. WannaCry exploited vulnerabilities found in the outdated XP version of Windows. Therefore, only use software that is still supported by the software provider. Up-to-date systems are not only important to fight against ransomware, but as a general precaution for the theft of personal data commonly transferred during online banking or when using cloud services such as iTunes.

  1. Use security software

To protect your system from unauthorized access, we recommend a holistic security solution such as Norton by Symantec.

  1. Back up your data regularly

A regular back up of your data on an external hard drive, DVD, USB stick or similar storage mediums will remove the leverage from blackmailers they otherwise would have on you. In addition, locally separated storage in the cloud can be an option, too. You then have the possibility to recover encrypted data from another source. Also, regularly check that you are able to restore your back up properly.

Protection measures at 1&1

For systems managed by us, such as web hosting, email and e-commerce packages, 1&1 always offers the latest software versions, updates or patches and installs them. In case of self-managed servers that we do not have access to, customers themselves are responsible for updating their systems. However, when we provide our customers with these products, we always make sure that automatic updates are activated.

The need for keeping systems up-to-date and backed up is more important than ever. Doing so will keep you prepared in case of future ransomware attacks.

[1] For further information on WannaCry, please visit the blog of security expert Symantec: https://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/what-you-need-know-about-wannacry-ransomware?linkId=37539318

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