Steering clear of the kind of cyberextortion that locked up computers and froze millions of files across the globe yesterday is as easy as practicing what one local expert calls “good computer hygiene” and being wary of unexpected emails — even if they’re sent by someone you know.
“When it comes to unexpected emails, never click on links and don’t download attachments,” warned cybersecurity expert Gary S. Miliefsky, CEO of the New Hampshire-based online security company SnoopWall, Inc.
“We all practice good hygiene by taking showers every day. Well, our computers need good hygiene, too, and part of that is installing anti-virus software and part of that is doing daily backups,” Miliefsky said.
“If you backup your computer every day and you fall victim to ransomware,” he added, “instead of paying up you’d just wipe the hard drive, restore the last backup and off you go.”
The malicious software that crippled computer systems in at least 99 countries and demanded $300, to start, to get them back up and running was caused by a self-replicating piece of software that infiltrated companies and organizations with older Microsoft operating systems.
The best way to make sure you are not the next victim, Miliefsky said, is to think twice before opening any email containing links or attachments and to always reach out to the people who sent them to make sure they’re safe to download.
“If you hover over the attachment or link and the name that shows up is a different person, you can tell if they’re spoofing the email address of a friend,” Miliefsky said. “That’s ultimately how you end up infected with things like this.”
For Microsoft users who are worried about the ransomware that brought hospitals and businesses to a screeching halt yesterday, Miliefsky suggests upgrading to Windows 10, which offers better protection. He also urged those using vulnerable software to install the computer company’s “software patch” as soon as possible.
“You’ve got to inoculate your computer,” Miliefsky said. “The Microsoft fix has been out for two months. If you patch your computer right away and you haven’t received that infection already, you should be all set.”
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