How to prevent ransomware attacks: Top 11 best practices

Yaron Dror

April 28, 2024

  • # Fraud Prevention
  • # Account Protection

Cyber criminals often send fake links and harmful attachments in hopes of tricking people into installing malicious software on their devices. Usually, this malware operates behind the scenes, quietly stealing your data and monitoring your activities. But in some instances, scammers will use a type of malware called ransomware to seize your data and boldly demand payment to release your files.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise for individuals and organizations alike, making it all the more important to learn how to prevent ransomware attacks and recover your data. Here’s what you need to know.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a kind of harmful software that uses encryption to scramble your data into indecipherable code and block your access. Once a cyber criminal encrypts your files, they’ll usually demand payment in exchange for a digital key to unlock your files. 

The attackers' goal is simple but harmful: They want money, and they’ll use your data's importance as leverage. Encryption makes it extremely difficult for victims to access their files without paying the ransom.

Are you a potential target for a ransomware attack?

Determining your vulnerability to ransomware attacks can help you understand how and why cyber criminals might target you. Here are a few factors that increase your exposure:

  • Lack of cybersecurity knowledge: Individuals and organizations that lack an understanding of different cyber security threats and prevention methods are more susceptible to attacks like ransomware and phishing. Phishing is a deceptive practice where fraudsters use emails and text messages to impersonate legitimate sources and steal people’s sensitive information or send fraudulent links that trigger malware installation.

  • Outdated or absent security software: Computers without current antivirus and antimalware software are often easy targets. These software tools detect and prevent malicious attacks, including ransomware, making them a must-have for all network-enabled devices.

  • Valuable data accessibility: Ransomware attacks target data with the highest impact. So, if you have access to highly sensitive or valuable data, or you store files like financial records or personal information on your devices, this increases your attractiveness to cyber criminals.

  • Weak network security: Attackers will often leverage unsecured networks as an entry point to intercept data transmissions. These include networks without a password or network firewall (security device that monitors and filters incoming and outgoing network traffic based on security rules).

  • Frequent online activity: If you’re very active online — whether you post on social media often, make a lot of online purchases, or play browser-based video games (especially with in-game transactions), your activity could attract the attention of cyber criminals. Each online transaction is a potential entry point for hackers looking to initiate a ransomware attack.

11 tips to prevent ransomware

Knowing how to stop ransomware from landing on your device is the first step to safeguarding your digital information. Here are some best practices that help keep these threats at bay:

  1. Educate yourself: You won’t be able to stop ransomware if you don’t know what to look for. Take the time to learn which attacks scammers often use to get ransomware on your device in the first place, like phishing emails and malvertising (malicious online advertisements), which often contain harmful links or attachments.

  2. Regularly update your software: Always update your software and operating systems. These updates often address security flaws that attackers look to exploit.

  3. Backup up your data consistently: Regularly backup your important files to an external hard drive or a cloud service. This way, you’ll have a copy of your important data even if you're hit by ransomware.

  4. Practice strong email security: Use advanced email filters to block phishing attempts and learn safe practices for handling emails. Be cautious of unexpected links or attachments.

  5. Examine external devices: Criminals can transfer malware to your device through physical tools, like USB drives. Never connect something to your computer if you don’t know where it came from.

  6. Use reliable antimalware tools: Install trusted antimalware software for an additional layer of defense. These tools can detect and block ransomware and other types of malware.

  7. Secure your network: Use firewalls and other security measures to control incoming and outgoing traffic. This helps prevent unauthorized access to your network.

  8. Restrict access to sensitive data: Limit who can access important information with PINs or passwords. The fewer people you give access to your files, the lower your risk of a ransomware attack slipping through.

  9. Create an incident response plan: Have a clear, step-by-step plan for what to do in case of a ransomware attack. This plan should include isolating infected devices, identifying the type of ransomware, and steps for recovery.

  10. Take a zero-trust approach: Treat all emails and files as potential threats until proven safe. Verify the source and content before clicking on or interacting with them.

  11. Manage endpoint security: Protect all devices connected to your network, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Ensure they have updated security software.

What to do if you're a victim of a ransomware attack

Being the target of a criminal ransomware scheme is nothing short of alarming, but knowing how to detect ransomware attacks and halt their progress can help you regain control. If you spot any signs of a ransomware attack — including unusual computer behavior, inability to access files, and ransom notes demanding payment to restore access — you need to act fast.

Here's a step-by-step guide for both individuals and businesses who might be dealing with a ransomware threat:

  1. Isolate the infected device: Immediately disconnect the affected device from your network. This includes unplugging Ethernet cables and turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. Isolation prevents ransomware from spreading to other devices on the same network.

  2. Don’t pay the ransom: You might feel tempted to pay the ransom to get your files back quickly, but paying does not guarantee you’ll regain access to your files. Moreover, it encourages the attackers to continue their criminal activities. 

  3. Seek professional help: Contact cyber security professionals or a trusted IT service provider as soon as possible. These experts can advise you on how to proceed, including attempting to remove the ransomware or recovering your data.

  4. Report the incident: Contact local law enforcement and report the incident so they can investigate the crime and help you resolve the issue.

  5. Look into decryption tools: Some cyber security researchers and companies create decryption tools for specific ransomware variants. These tools can potentially unlock your data without paying the ransom. Websites like No More Ransom can help you identify the ransomware variant and check for available decryption tools.

  6. Restore from backups: If you have backups of your affected files, you can restore them once you remove the ransomware from your device. Ensure your device is ransomware-free before restoring or opening any files to prevent re-infection.

Using antiransomware software and tools

While humans can only do so much to detect ransomware manually, technology can offer more robust ransomware attack protection. Using specialized antiransomware programs and software can potentially detect and block these threats before they can even encrypt your files. Here's a simple breakdown of how these tools enhance your defenses:

  • Real-time monitoring and protection: Antiransomware tools continuously scan your system for suspicious activity, offering real-time responses against potential threats.

  • Detection of malicious software: These tools can identify different forms of malware that might try to infiltrate your system, including ransomware.

  • Blocking and removing threats: Once it detects a threat, antiransomware software can block and remove the threat from your system, preventing it from causing harm.

  • Regular updates: These tools frequently update their detection capabilities to combat new and evolving ransomware strains.

To make the most of your security efforts, consider IronVest’s state-of-the-art digital security platform. Here are some benefits of using IronVest to block ransomware:

  • Advanced threat detection: IronVest uses sophisticated detection technology to alert users to a wide range of cyber threats, including ransomware.

  • User-friendly interface: The platform’s ease of use makes it accessible for individuals of varying levels of technical expertise.

  • Comprehensive security solution: IronVest offers protection against other cyber attacks beyond ransomware, enhancing your overall digital security.

  • Proactive defense measures: When you're dealing with a cyber threat, you want to be proactive — not reactive. Having technology that prevents attacks before they can even inflict damage eliminates a lot of potential headaches and gives users more peace of mind.

By leveraging antiransomware tools like IronVest, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a ransomware attack.

Discover IronVest: A proactive solution against ransomware

Ransomware attacks are not just a passing threat but a significant challenge that requires advanced and dynamic strategies for prevention and detection. To protect your sensitive information and put a stop to pervasive cyber threats, you need to adopt robust security measures.

IronVest emerges as a powerful ally in this battle, offering innovative ransomware prevention features. With tools like biometric authentication and automatic data sealing, this cutting-edge solution can fortify your digital defenses from the toughest attacks. Get IronVest today and take a decisive step toward enhancing your cyber security and gaining peace of mind.

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