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How to Prevent and Beat Ransomware

You've heard the stories of ransomware taking down an entire company, hospital, or police department's IT system. Here's how to beat ransomware, which is a type of malware.

By
Eric Escobar,
June 30, 2016
Episode #227

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Ransomware is not your typical piece of computer malware. A few years ago, the majority of computer viruses out on the web would try and make money through advertising or pop ups, and they were typically pretty easy to remove. Hackers have upped their game, though, and now most malware infections will encrypt all of your files and hold them for ransom. Encrypting the files means that all of your files stay exactly where you left them on your hard drive, but they are unreadable without a password. If you pay the hacker, they will typically give you the key to unlock your files, and if you don’t, they will remain locked up for good.

This tactic is devious and very lucrative, which is why it has been exploding in popularity among hackers. Some variants of ransomware will even spread throughout your network, encrypting not just the files on your hard drive, but on any other accessible hard drive. This is how whole networks have been crippled, which you may read about in the news. This means it just takes one person to get infected and it can spread to everyone else!

How to Prevent Ransomware

Let’s first talk about what you can do to prevent ransomware. Typically, the main ways people get infected are by opening up files that have been emailed to you from a hacker. Sometimes these can just look like spam and are easily deleted, and other times, they are more clever and look like they are coming from someone you know. The take away here is to not open any attachments unless you were expecting to receive one from a trusted source.

Next is to be careful where you go on the internet. The farther off the beaten path you get on the web, the more likely your system is to catch malware. This is especially true when you’re downloading and running programs and pirated software. Before you download and run any software, be absolutely sure that it has a reliable track record and a number of good reviews.

It goes with most things in life, if an ad or offer seems to good to be true, it probably is. If your gut doesn’t feel right about something, then don’t run it. It’s as simple as that. Don't be one of the countless people who has said to me, "You know, I thought it seemed strange!"

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