With yet another round of ransomware attacks making global headlines, what can you do to protect yourself, your clients, or your company? The first step is to know what ransomware is and how it gets into your system or networks.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users’ access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it. Email is the main infection method. There are reports of malware that can hide in email attachments, impersonating anything from resumes to invoices or quotes. The malicious files can masquerade as other things not listed here. Although an email may look genuine, unless you’re expecting something you need to exercise caution. This type of attack is known as phishing—you can find out more about phishing in this recent blog post.
Once an infected attachment is downloaded and opened, the ransomware software spreads quickly and easily through your system when it encounters unpatched or outdated software. The most recent strain of ransomware, called GoldenEye or Petya, is exploiting a vulnerability in Windows® OS.
Aside from ensuring that all Windows systems are up to date with the latest patches, here are seven steps everyone can take to help protect against ransomware:
A favorite phishing tactic among cybercriminals is to spoof the display name of an email. This fraudulent email, once delivered, appears legitimate because most user inboxes only display the sender name. Do not trust the name that is displayed. If it looks suspicious, don’t open the email. Or if the content of the email looks suspicious do not click on any links in the email or download any attachments. For example, one recent email scam purported to be from Apple® iTunes®, but a careful look at the email address it was [email protected] immediately raise alarms bells.
Hover your mouse over any links embedded in the body of the email. If the link address looks strange or nonstandard or you don’t recognize it, don’t click on it.
Within its Office suite, Microsoft® deliberately turned off auto-execution of macros by default many years ago as a security measure. A lot of infections rely on persuading you to turn macros back on, so don’t do it.
Brands are very serious about email. Legitimate messages usually do not have major spelling mistakes or poor grammar. Read your emails carefully and report anything that seems suspicious.
Legitimate companies and financial institutions will never ask for personal credentials via email. Don’t give them up. EVER.
Invoking a sense of urgency or fear is a common phishing tactic. Beware of subject lines that include threatening language.
Phishers are extremely good at what they do. Just because an email has convincing brand logos, language, and a seemingly valid email address, does not mean that it is legitimate. Be skeptical when it comes to your email messages. If it looks even remotely suspicious, don’t open it!
Maintaining the security and integrity of a company's networks is a responsibility shared by everyone. Knowing what to look out for is one crucial step toward preventing infection.
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