Protect Yourself from WannaCry Ransomware and Other Viruses

Date June 9, 2017

On Friday, May 12, an unprecedented virus spread through the internet, creating enormous damage and loss. The WannaCry ransomware, as it is called, attacked 57,000 computers in less than a day.

Ransomware works by holding a victim’s data under “ransom.” The virus encrypts the data and holds it hostage unless the victim pays a ransom, and the files are promised to be decrypted for the user.

The WannaCry virus demands a payment of $300 in exchange for decrypting infected files. If the victim does not pay within three days, the ransom doubles to $600. When seven days go by without payment, WannaCry deletes all the files.

By the following Monday morning, more than 200,000 systems worldwide were infected by the virus, with European countries being hit the hardest.

If your computer is infected, it’s best not to pay the ransom. Instead, restore backup files to your computer or seek help from a professional. Paying up doesn’t guarantee your files’ return and it encourages attackers to infect your computer again.

Here are 5 steps you can take to keep your computer safe:

1.) Create a backup of your files

Invest in an external hard drive and make regular backups of your data. This will protect your files in case anything happens to your computer. You can also subscribe to a cloud backup service and regularly store your most important data. There are multiple free (to a limit) cloud services you can use, such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud or Dropbox.

2.) Use Microsoft’s fix

Upon discovering that WannaCry spread through a weakness in Microsoft Windows, the software giant released a fix for the vulnerability. Protect your computer by using the fix to strengthen its code.

3.) Update your operating system

No one knows if there are any other weaknesses in Windows that can be exploited for another virus. It’s important to update your OS to the most recent version, preferably to Windows 10, as soon as possible. The more updated your software, the less likely it is that it contains such vulnerabilities.

4.) Use a firewall

A strong firewall will prevent ransomware from accessing your computer. Since malware is always evolving, it’s important to update your firewall on a regular basis to ensure protection from the most recent malware.

5.) Avoid suspicious websites and emails

It’s easy for hackers to infect your computer. All they need is for you to click on a banner ad and – oops! Malware is installed and it can access you computer and all your files.

Following a link in an email can also infect your computer. When online, be on guard. Never visit suspicious-looking sites or click on ads that look shady. Don’t download anything you can’t explain or click on links found in emails from companies you’re not familiar with.

No one knows when WannaCry will stop circulating, but it always pays to be careful. Take the necessary measures to protect yourself today.

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