Ransomware on the Rise – How It Works and How to Protect Yourself

| Updated on March 27, 2024

Ransomware attacks have surged in 2021, with twice as many cases reported in the UK compared to the same six-month period in 2020. 

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) says ransomware is the biggest threat to our society. Global concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic lead many to become more vulnerable to tricks pulled by cybercriminals.

Here we will look into how ransomware works and how you can protect yourself, your business, and your friends and family.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software (malware) that can shut down, alter or glean data from a device or a network.

Catching cybercriminals is not simple. They mask identities as sophisticated as the systems designed to catch innocent people out.

Typically, a targeted user will be sent an email, message, or directed towards a download masquerading as something legitimate, such as discounted goods, gift cards, or fines.

Messages posing as COVID-19 updates, test results, and more have contributed to the recent spike.

Questioning any seemingly random messages is key to avoiding falling into the criminals’ trap.

How to Avoid Ransomware Attacks?

The NCSC recommends taking the following four steps to protect yourself from falling victim to ransomware.

Create Regular Backups:

If your online defenses are breached, disconnecting from all networks and resetting devices to factory settings is the swiftest way to get out of the criminals’ trap. This will have less impact on your life or business if your files are backed up and you can resume using them swiftly.

Ensure Messages are Filtered:

Block future messages from any suspicious senders and utilize VPN software to protect yourself when accessing data on public networks. Whether you own a Mac or use a PC, utilizing a VPN for Mac will add an extra layer of protection, providing you are vigilant when online.

Manage Your Apps:

Use multi-factor authentication to protect your devices from physical breaches, maintain the security of your mobile phone, update apps and delete any that are unused. Criminals often target older versions of software as they can contain more weaknesses over time.

Plan for the Worst:

It can be devastating if you don’t have a plan prepared for when you suffer an attack. But preparing for the worst by backing up sensitive data and acting sensibly online means you are well placed to react quickly if you fall victim.

Chitra Joshi

Content Writer & Marketer

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