Get Safe Online has today (Monday, September 26) issued a warning to people across Cheshire, including small businesses, to help them avoid becoming a victim of ransomware, as the UK remains one of the most affected countries in the world.
The campaign, supported by Cheshire Police, highlights the risks of this form of malicious software (also referred to as malware) – which enables cybercriminals to remotely lock down files on a victim’s computer or mobile device and demand a fee to unlock them (even though they don’t always do so, even when the ransom is paid).
Recent figures released by antivirus vendor Symantec reveal that cybercriminals are demanding an average of £514 from their victims. This comes as at least 90,000 devices were infected by a strain of ransomware called Locky, in just one day.
There are a number of ways individuals can be exposed to ransomware, whether it be through opening a seemingly innocent, but fraudulent attachment, a security vulnerability in software they have already downloaded, downloading it through a link in an unsolicited email or visiting an infected website (some adult sites and peer-to-peer music download sites are notorious for this). However, falling victim to this form of malware can be prevented if individuals take some simple, appropriate steps outlined below.
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, said: “These attacks are becoming not only more prominent, but also more personal. It’s become easier to store our most personal and sensitive information away on our laptops and mobile phones and, as a result, cyber criminals are approaching us in increasingly targeted and sophisticated ways to encourage us to download malicious software. So they can, quite literally, hold individuals and their information to ransom.
“However, there are a series of simple things individuals and organisations can do to ensure that they don’t fall victim to ransomware. Not clicking or opening any unsolicited attachments is just one measure we’d strongly advise people to follow, and forms part of a set of top tips we’ve put together to help people become more vigilant of ransomware.”
Get Safe Online has shared the following top tips for protecting yourself from ransomware:
- Don’t click on any links or attachments in emails you receive from an unsolicited sender, or even one that appears to come from someone you know, but seems irregular (somebody may have hacked or spoofed their email).
- Always install software updates as soon as you are prompted, as these often include fixes for security vulnerabilities. Do this for your operating system as well as any software programs and mobile apps.
- Visit only websites you know to be reputable.
- Install anti-virus software on your computer and mobile devices (including Apple), making sure to keep it updated.
- Regularly back up your important files. You can do this by using an external hard drive, memory stick or online storage provider, but remember not to leave your backup device connected to your computer as the malware can then spread to there too.
- If your computer has been locked by ransomware, you should contact your support provider or the retailer you purchased the device from, for assistance.
- If you become a victim of ransomware, report it to Action Fraud immediately.Find more expert, free advice about how to spot and respond to ransomware attacks on the Get Safe Online website.