A massive cyberattack has claimed more than 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries over the past few days, and officials say the position will likely exacerbate. The WannaCry ransomware so called because it fundamentally holds a computer or network hostage unless a ransom is paid to unlock it embattled Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT, +0.07% Windows computers, mostly at businesses and government organizations, and affected everything from hospitals in the U.K. to Fedex in the U.S. to gas-station cards in China. Experts worry the virus possibly will spread again Monday, as Asian corporate networks go online and the hackers tweak their code to elude makeshift defenses.
Here are a few easy ways to avoid being the next ransomware victim:
Update, update, update
If your computer runs Windows, make sure your operating system is updated. In March, Microsoft released a patch for the liability that the ransomware worm targeted, so if you haven’t updated since then you may be at risk.
The easiest thing to do is approve auto-updates, if your particular Windows system allows that. Otherwise, always agree Windows software updates so you’re running the most up-to-date, secure system.
Back up your data
If you have your most important data saved on a separate system, then you won’t be at risk of behind all your photos and data files if you get infected.
The best options are an external hard drive that you update frequently and is not connected to the internet, or a cloud-storage service, such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud or Microsoft OneCloud.
While a confuse service could still be embattled, the odds are a multi-billion-dollar tech giant will have much better security than you do, and much better resources to respond quickly to an attack.
Be careful what you open
Mostly now, be wary of any unnecessary emails asking you to click on a link, or to download a file. If it looks strange, or the site is distrustful, don’t click it.
Doing so could infect not only your computer, but whatever network you’re on that’s how the virus spreads.
Use antivirus software
While they’re not always guaranteed to catch every virus, this is accurately the job they’re built for. Scans can block viruses from being downloaded, and prevent malware from being installed.
Therefore what happens if you do get tainted with ransomware? Probably nothing good. WannaCry is named that for a reason it takes over your computer, encrypts your files and threatens to delete them unless you pay about $300.
You can try a decryption tool to unlock your data, but that won’t always work, and hackers will sometimes use such apps as bait to further infect your system. The other option is paying the hackers, however unsavory that may seem.