California-based nursing school Gurnick Academy narrowly avoided falling victim to one of the world’s most prevalent infections today: ransomware. When a professor plugged in a USB drive believed to have been used to transfer lecture materials from his home computer to his work device, he was greeted with a ransomware notice demanding $740 in bitcoin to decrypt and return his files.
According to CSO Online, the ransomware was not only present on the USB drive, but also on the instructor’s Google Drive where he saved backups of the infected files. Luckily, the school’s IT department recognized warning signs early on and prevented the ransomware from spreading throughout the entire school by disconnecting the infected device from the corporate network. The instructor on the other hand, reportedly elected not to pay the ransom and lost access to lectures, various presentations and possibly some personal data.
Falling victim to ransomware can be a costly and time-consuming affair. Here are a few quick prevention tips everyone should keep in mind:
- Cut down on the potential attack avenues by keeping all your operating systems and software patched with the latest security updates.
- Keep an eye out for phishing attempts and be incredibly skeptical of unsolicited web links in emails.
- If you are targeted with a ransomware attack, do not give in by paying the ransom. This will surely contribute to the continued growth of ransomware by further validating cyber extortion as a viable revenue stream for hackers.
- Execute and verify offline backups on a regular basis in order to minimize a ransomware attacker’s leverage and to ensure that you can quickly recover your files after an infection.
- After downloading a file, rule out any possible risk by scanning it with an antivirus solution before executing.
- Whenever possible, use Microsoft Office 2016’s Group Policy to disable macros in documents received from unfamiliar or untrusted sources.