Tiffany M. Faust | Posted on Oct 01, 2016
National Cyber Security Awareness Month occurs every October as a campaign designed to increase the public’s awareness of cybersecurity and cybercrime issues. The campaign is organized by the National Cyber Security Alliance, a consortium of public and private sector sponsors who share a concern about protecting the public from Internet threats. One such threat is called ransomware.
Ransomware is a form of malware used by cybercriminals to freeze your computer or mobile device, steal your data, and demand a “ransom” typically anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. Ransomware can affect individual computers or laptops, as well as enterprise networks and/or servers used by government agencies, financial institutions, healthcare providers, and other organizations. Following are nine tips that may help individuals and businesses avoid ransomware attacks.
Tips for consumers:
- Don't click. Visiting unsafe, suspicious or fake websites can lead to the intrusion of malware. Be cautious when opening emails or attachments you don’t recognize, even if the message comes from someone in your contact list.
- Always back up your files. By maintaining offline copies of your personal information, ransomware scams will have a limited impact on you. If targeted, you will be less inclined to respond to threats posed by cybercriminals.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
- Enable pop-up blockers. To prevent pop-ups, turn on pop-up blockers to avert unwanted ads, pop-ups, or browser malware from regularly appearing on your computer screen.
Tips for businesses:
- Educate your employees. Employees can serve as a first line of defense to combat online threats and can actively help stop malware from infiltrating the organization’s system. A strong technology security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and appropriate responses aid tremendously in preventing these threats.
- Manage the use of privileged accounts. Restrict users’ ability to install and run software applications on network devices, in an effort to limit your network’s exposure to malware.
- Employ a data backup and recovery plan for all critical information. Backups are essential for lessening the impact of potential malware threats. Store the data in a separate device or offline in order to access it in the event of a ransomware attack.
- Make sure all business devices are up to date. Ensure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update, and conduct regular scans so that your operating systems operate efficiently.
- Contact your local FBI field office immediately to report a ransomware event and request assistance. Visit https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field to locate the office nearest you.