Ransomware is becoming one of the most common cybersecurity threats faced by anyone who uses the internet. When your computer is affected by this kind of malicious software, cybercriminals will lock you out of your files and demand that you pay a ransom in order to get them back – rarely following through with their promise. In order to reduce your risk of ending up with it on your computer, it’s important that you get to know the most common ways ransomware spreads and how you can protect your system from it.
Email Phishing Attacks
The most common way ransomware spreads is through email phishing attacks. The cybercriminal sends out emails that look like they’re from a legitimate source the victim might know, such as a bank, creditor, or another trustworthy source. The emails either contain a link or an attachment. When the recipient clicks the link or downloads the attachment, the ransomware is installed on his or her computer.
It might take minutes, or it might take months, but at some point, the victim will see a message that claims his or her files have been encrypted. The cybercriminal when then ask for a ransom. In most cases, the ransom is demanded in the form of Bitcoin since it’s not traceable, though the cybercriminal might also try to convince you to conduct an online credit card payment.
Another way ransomware spreads is through unsecure downloads . For example, if you download online games, videos, or basically any other type of file, there’s a risk that you’re installing files laced with ransomware codes. This is why it’s so important to think twice before accepting a download and if you have to download something, only access the download only from sites you know you can trust.
You can also end up with ransomware on your computer simply by visiting an infected website. This is often referred to as drive-by downloading, as you don’t have to take any additional actions to get malware on your computer. Fortunately, if you have updated antivirus software on your computer, you’ll typically get a warning when you land on an infected, or suspicious website. Without this type of preventive measure, you’re more likely to be a victim of ransomware.
Threats via social networking typically come in the form of messages. Similar to phishing emails, you’re encouraged to click on a link or download a file that will end up infecting your computer. These messages will often appear to come from your social media friends. As with any suspicious email, always check with the sender directly before moving forward with the request.
There are many ways ransomware spreads. What makes it more challenging is its simplicity—it doesn’t need to be complex in order for victims to take the bait. When simply visiting a website or clicking a link can result in ransomware being installed to your computer, it’s easy to see why experts predict an organization will fall victim to ransomware every 11 seconds by 2021.
You can reduce your odds of this happening to you or your organization by taking Inspired eLearning’s security awareness training courses focused on ransomware.
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The original version of this article was first published on Inspired eLearning.