Earlier this month, a computer virus called WannaCrypt infected over 200,000 computers worldwide.
The attack earned the nickname “WannaCry” because it encrypts all of the files on the infected computer and blackmails the victim with a fee between $300 and $600 to recover them. Imagine being faced with the decision to pay these extortive costs, or lose all your invaluable family photos or mission-critical business data. WannaCry, indeed.
WannaCrypt is just the latest example of a category of malware called ransomware. This type of threat is becoming increasingly common and the bad guys are getting more creative about how they spread them.
Luckily, there are a few easy techniques to protect yourself from the threat of ransomware.
Keep your operating system updated
WannaCrypt spread through an exploit that Microsoft patched back in March 2017. So, this infection was completely avoidable by simply updating Windows as recommended by Microsoft.
It may seem like a pain to install OS updates but both Microsoft and Apple have made it so easy that there is no longer any excuse to avoid updates. Both Windows and Mac have simple instructions online. You can even set both operating systems to update in the middle of the night or at other times when your computer is not being used.
Don’t use your computer as Administrator
In their security guidelines, Apple tells its customers to “never browse the web or check email while logged in to an administrator’s account.” This advice is for good reason. When you’re an administrator, malicious software “can potentially modify system preferences without being required to authenticate.”
Microsoft agrees, explaining that when “you are logged on as an administrator of a local computer, a Trojan horse could reformat your hard drive, delete your files, and create a new user account with administrative access.”
So, if you haven’t done so already, create a user with just the permission levels you need for your everyday work. If you ever need higher privileges, use Run as Administrator or temporarily adjust your Security and Privacy settings. Once you set this up, you likely won’t ever need to worry about it again.
Use a trusted antivirus service
Antivirus software is often mentioned as a cure-all for every type of technology threat. This confidence is misplaced and overstated. The bad guys often check their malware against popular antivirus software and tweak until they have a version that won’t be detected.
Still, as one layer in your overall defense, antivirus software is easy to implement and can protect you from known threats.
Keep your important files safe with a copy in the cloud
Even though you might follow best practices, you can still make a small mistake that results in your computer getting infected. In that case, having safe copies of your important files can be your saving grace.
There are a lot of cloud storage or backup solutions on the market. Some of them can be laborious to set up, and others can get expensive fast. It’s up to you choose a solution that fits your needs, technical ability and budget.
Rackspace recently launched Rackspace Email Plus with Cloud Drive — a suite of services including a 25GB Mailbox, and a 30GB Cloud Drive with desktop sync apps for Windows and Mac. The automatic versioning and file recovery features of our Cloud Drive mean that you can recover files encrypted by a ransomware attack.
Rackspace Email Plus is a simple product with award-winning support, which can keep your files safe with a copy in the cloud for only $3.50/user/month. If you want to learn more about Rackspace Email Plus, please visit our website.