Stay cyber-healthy: Tips and tricks to avoid being infected by ransomware

September 7, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources, ,

Approximately a 3-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Ransomware is malicious software that can infect and encrypt the files and folders on your computer and other devices, preventing you from opening them.
  • Educational institutions and health care organizations are among the top targets.
  • There are easy ways to ensure your cyber-health when browsing the internet or checking email.

Ransomware is malicious software that can infect and encrypt the files and folders on your computer and other devices, preventing you from opening them. Victims are asked to pay a ransom to get their folders, files and devices unlocked.

Criminals use ransomware to extort money from individuals and organizations. Educational institutions and health care organizations are among the top targets.

Ransomware doesn’t just encrypt hard drives. It can also affect backups, flash drives and cloud storage.

How is it spread?

  • It is typically spread through attachments or clicked links in spam or phishing emails. Opening what looks like an innocent attachment or clicking on an unknown link can download the malicious program and encrypts the system and network.
  • Through software exploits and flaws such as macro-enabled Office documents or unpatched computers and devices.
  • On the web by compromised ad networks, and by malicious files hosted on peer-to-peer file sharing sites.

Negative consequences of ransomware infections include: 

  • Temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information 
  • Disruption to regular operations 
  • Financial losses incurred to restore systems and files 
  • Potential harm to an organization’s reputation and so-called double-extortion attacks, with cyber criminals threatening to release stolen information if the ransom isn’t paid.

Keep these tips in mind when browsing the internet and checking email:

  • Update software frequently. Unpatched software can contain security holes that leave your system vulnerable. Only download updates from your app store or from a known, bookmarked source.
  • Use caution when surfing the web and checking your inbox. Never download attachments or click on links from unknown senders. If you see a suspicious email, report it by clicking on the “Report Phishing” Button at the top of your Outlook navigation pane or mobile device.
  • Use unique, complex passwords that can’t be easily guessed and two-factor authentication such as DUO to provide added security on your passwords against ransomware and other cyberattacks.
  • Back up your files regularly. Secure your backup in a safe place and disconnect the device when you aren’t using it. Ransomware can infect connected network and external drives.

Our line of defense against these attacks includes EVERYONE! 

More information is available on Safe Computing:

https://safecomputing.umich.edu/be-aware/phishing-and-suspicious-email/ransomware

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