Welcome to Cyber Threats 101! This is the second chapter in our A Busy College Student’s Guide to Online Security.  We’ll begin by defining what are Ransomware attacks and share expert tips on how to avoid becoming a victim to these attacks.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects your computer, and then encrypts your files until you can pay the “ransom” to decrypt your data. You may have heard of ransomware recently following massive global outbreaks of WannaCry and Petya/NonPetya, but within the last 5 years, it has become the fifth most common variety of malware.

How can ransomware get on my computer?

There are a few different ways ransomware can infect your device:

  • A “drive-by” download from an infected website
  • A phishing email or text message with an infected link or attachment
  • Clicking a compromised advertisement
  • Other malware, like a Trojan or worm

Can ransomware infect my smartphone too?

Actually, yes! In fact, the number of mobile ransomware attacks has increased by 253% in the first quarter of 2017 alone.

What can I do to make sure I’m not a victim to ransomware?

To protect yourself from becoming another victim of ransomware, security experts recommend:

  • Updating your software regularly. Unfortunately, thousands of victims and organizations learned the hard way during the global WannaCry outbreak. Regularly install the latest software update, or set up automatic updates, to patch security vulnerabilities and to keep your computer up and running.
  • Installing anti-virus and anti-malware software and regularly scan your computers for an infection. If you have the resources, consider installing an anti-spam and anti-phishing software as well.
  • Keeping a backup your files and data in a portable hard drive or to the cloud.
  • Looking out for “phishy” emails from people you don’t know. Avoid clicking any suspicious links or attachments.
  • Enabling a pop-up blocker in your web browser to prevent drive-by downloads.

Loved reading this guide? Go back to read Chapter 1: Social Engineering & Phishing Attacks or continue to Chapter 3: Doxxing.