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Ransomware, what is it and how to avoid it? 

Ransomware, what is it and how to avoid it? 

Ransomeware is becoming more and more prevalent as the internet matures and becomes more consumer friendly. At this point, almost everyone has given their information out somewhere online. Trusting our computers are safe from hackers might not be the best approach. 


I can still remember the first computer I ever used. This was around the time AOL and downloading music by torrent was popular. It was the family computer, and everyone had to take turns using it because we had to use dial-up internet, which limited our use between phone calls. I don’t think we’ll ever know the exact source of what happened to that computer, but it was never the same after my brother found a music downloading program called LimeWire. We quickly learned that every music download had the potential of adding a virus to our computer. Which after a few hundred downloads, the computer was too far gone. We had malware and viruses of all kinds but, thankfully, no ransomware threat experience. At the time, a virus was more of an inconvenience than a security threat. No one in our family kept private information on the computer where someone getting access to our files would be concerning. Computers were used very differently in 1995 compared to today in 2021. We never kept banking, credit card, and sensitive work information on our computers. Nowadays, it is common for someone to keep all of this information on their computer and even their cell phone. The risk of a ransomware attack becomes even more of a risk with our work computers holding employee and customer information. So, what is ransomware, and how can you avoid it? 


What is ransomware? 

Let’s first examine where the term ransomware comes from. To explain this, you need to know what software, hardware, and malware are. Software is the internal communication within the hardware of your computer. The hardware consists of your hard drive, CPU, graphics card, and other physical parts of your computer. Malware is essentially bad software that gets downloaded into your hardware. It attacks your software, making communications within your hardware difficult, which is why your system will run slower after installing the malware. If you get malware on your personal computer, it is severe enough to be concerned about a ransomware attack. But for a business owner who has employee and customer information on their computer, the risk is even more severe. Hackers can use malware and take your system hostage until you pay them their ransom, which is where the term ransomware stems from. A hacker has a few options of how they can control your computer and use it to their advantage. They can either steal information for their own benefit, lock access to your account, or worse, completely lock and hide your computer’s information within encrypted data. This trick is specifically malicious because you’ll rarely get it back unless you pay the hacker their ransom fee. One of the worst parts of this type of ransomware attack is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get the stolen information back from the hacker after paying the ransom. 


How to prevent or defend against ransomware attacks? 

The best way to avoid this problem is to back up your data within a trusted program. Popular options for a backup provider are NordLocker, Dropbox, and OneDrive from Microsoft. Using these services gives you the ability to store your information efficiently and securely. If your home computer or work computer gets hacked, the data will not only be backed up securely but safe from viewing if your sensitive files are secure within one of these programs. 


How does malware get onto your computer? 

Let’s look at a few ways hackers can get this malware onto your computer and ways that you may unknowingly help them. Have you ever gotten an email from your friend Connie but when you look at the email address, it’s not Connie’s regular email address? The email looks legit, and all “Connie” wants you to do is click a link to a site she says you might like. Or an email that says it’s from your boss who needs information from one of your accounts, and they need it fast? These types of emails are called phishing. It’s an attempt to either get information from you, information from your work, or to get you to download malware to your computer, which the hacker can potentially use for ransomware in the future. If you ever get an email that looks suspicious, DON’T CLICK THE LINK! Clicking the link can be what adds malware to your computer. It might be a download that you unknowingly add to your computer. Or if you get a suspicious email asking for sensitive information about yourself or your work, double-check the source. Make a call to the person who’s being impersonated. It’s always better to double-check that they need the requested information instead of dealing with a ransomware situation on your behalf. 



Make sure you’re being diligent with your emails and don’t click the link. Be careful what you download to your computer and ensure that everything you download comes from a trusted source. Lastly, never give out sensitive information if you’re not 100% confident who’s asking for the information. Use the tips above to use your home and work computer with confidence, knowing you’re doing your part to avoid your chances of experiencing ransomware. 



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