The following is a guest post by Justin Lavelle, the Communications Director for BeenVerified, a leading source of online background checks and contact information.
Being taken hostage is a terrifying experience, but what if the hostage is your personal or work computer? The latest online threat does just that, “ransomware” is used by criminal hackers to take over your computer, rendering it unusable until you pay a ransom for your computer to be “released” back to you.
The ransomware attacks don’t discriminate between PCs or Macs and unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be many protections out there, let alone quick fixes if your computer is taken hostage. In fact, the FBI has suggested that users who have been infected by ransomware “just pay the ransom.”
With that being the case, the best option you have is to avoid ransomware in the first place. The most effective way to do that is to be aware of the classic online malware pitfalls.
Ransomware and other malware that can infect your computer typically come from three main areas:
Infected web sites: Obscure web sites can be set up with the sole purpose of infecting your computer and even mainstream sites can be unwittingly affected. Before you download anything from a web site, be sure the site isn’t known for uploading malware. You can do search uncertain URLs through a search on Sucuri.
Email spam: Ransomware can also be sent to you. Everyone is aware of classic Nigerian prince email scams, but incoming spam emails are getting more sophisticated. As a practice, delete any email from a seemingly suspicious sender before you open it.
P2P downloads: Third party download sites, many of which are illegal or live on the dark web, can also have various strains of malware. That new video game you think you are downloading could actually be a nasty virus. Avoid downloading anything from unknown or anonymous users.
It’s important to keep your antivirus software up to date and not to get complacent as ransomware is constantly mutating into new forms. As mentioned, even Mac computers are susceptible to ransomware attacks. Sophos is a good antivirus option for both Mac and PC computers.
Stay vigilant and avoid the classic dodgy online venues, and make sure to verify any third parties you meet with online. Cautions like this should be able to help you to sidestep this latest online headache.
BeenVerified helps people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives and can provide peace of mind by offering a fast, easy and affordable way to do background checks on potential dates. BeenVerified allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses and property records.