tips to protect against ransomeware

Qatar agency issues tips to protect against ransomware and what to do if you are hit?

Computers across the world were locked up and users’ files held for ransom when dozens of countries were hit in a cyber-extortion attack that targeted hospitals, companies, and government agencies.
There is no information yet of any company or organisation getting hit by ransomware in Qatar.

As the digital epidemic is spreading across the globe and people are expecting more damage on Monday as people get back to work, it is better to be cautious of the problem and take some simple steps to avoid getting hit by the global attack.

Qatar’s National Computer Emergency Response Team (Q-Cert), under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, in a series of tweets has issued some tips to protect your data against such attack and also what to do if you attacked.

Malware is a general term that refers to software that’s harmful to your computer. Ransomware is a type of malware that essentially takes over a computer and prevents users from accessing data on it until a ransom is paid.

How Ransomware works

In most cases, the software infects computers through links or attachments in malicious messages known as phishing emails.

The software usually is hidden within links or attachments in emails. Once the user clicks on the link or opens the document, their computer is infected and the software takes over.

The ransomware encrypts data on the computer using an encryption key that only the attacker knows. If the ransom isn’t paid, the data is often lost forever.

How to protect yourself against ransomware?

Store backups of important data on personal devices.
Be sure to update your operating system, Web browsers and other programs that you use regularly.
Update your antivirus software regularly.
Turn off or disable JavaScript, Flash, and Silverlight.
Avoid pressing anonymous links received in your email.
Do not open any attachment unless you expect to receive this file, the malware could exploit the sender’s email (even from someone you know). So if the attachment is suspicious better check with the person who send the mail before opening.
Block emails with attachments like compressed files or Microsoft Office files that contain malicious macro files. Don’t trust any MS Office file contains macro files, unless you created it or if you have received it from someone you trust.

What to do if you are hit by ransomware?

  • Most security firms advise against paying ransom as this will fund the hackers and their crimes. The money will help them improve their system and attack you again as they know who will pay. And paying doesn’t guarantee that the data will be returned.
  • Disconnect the affected device and any storage device from the network, because in certain cases the damage might spread to other devices on the same network.
  • Use antivirus software to get rid of ransomware.
  • Return your files from your backups.
  • If you don’t have backup of your files then find a way to remove the ransomware. Some researchers in information security companies are trying to create anti-ransomware programs.
  • Friday’s attack exploited vulnerabilities in some versions of Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has released software patches for the security holes, although not everyone has installed those updates.
  • If your software is not patched, you can exploit that user. Anyone who applied the patch that Microsoft released likely wasn’t affected by this.

Users should also look for malicious email messages that often masquerade as emails from companies or people you regularly interact with online. It’s important to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in those messages, since they could unleash malware.

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