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Staying Cyber Aware and Safer from Ransomware

Ransomware – A truly frightening cyber security topic

It’s October, and at McAfee we love celebrating spooky season. As McAfee’s Chief Technology Officer, I’m also excited that it’s Cyber Security Awareness Month. And while there are no fun-size candy bars, we do talk about some truly bone-chilling stuff when it comes to cyber safety. So gather round, as I tell you all about one of the scariest threats online, ransomware. 

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of extortion that happens when cyber criminals demand payment. Recently some high-profile companies have been in the news as victims of major ransomware attacks. However, ransomware also impacts individuals, just like you and me. In the individual’s case, a cybercriminal may demand payment to restore access to your device or data or even to prevent them from dumping sensitive or embarrassing information onto the internet. McAfee defends consumers from tens of thousands of ransomware attacks every month. 

What should I do if I’m a victim of ransomware? 

If the worst should happen, take a deep breath and don’t panic. Calmly assessing the situation now can save you a lot of stress later. Ask yourself: 

What data has been compromised?  

  • Look for things like encrypted files on your computer that you can no longer open. 
  • Did the hacker show you an email you don’t believe they should have access to? 

How valuable is the data?  

  • Can you afford to lose this data? 
  • Ideally, your data is backed up on another device or in the cloud so you can regain anything that the criminals have stolen. 
  • Would this data be publicly damaging to you? 

How to avoid making the problem worse 

  • Never accept unsolicited help. This may be the hacker. 
  • Don’t click on pop-ups, links, or emails offering help, as these may also be affiliated with the ransomware. 

Taking action 

Now that you’ve assessed the situation, we can do something about it. 

  • Update all your passwords to lock criminals out of your online accounts. 
  • Make sure all your system software is up to date. 
  • Check that McAfee security is installed and active on all your devices. 

Don’t negotiate with terrorists   

If you can afford to lose your data, and the personal impact is minimal, we always recommend you don’t pay the criminal. There’s no guarantee that if you pay the ransom, you’ll get your data back, and ultimately, you’re incentivizing the cybercriminal to do it again. The best defense against ransomware is to have great cybersecurity habits that prevent the attack from occurring in the first place. 

So, whether you’re enjoying some creepy lawn decorations, or just surfing the web, remember to stay safe out there this Halloween.