8 Tips for Staying Safe from Ransomware Attacks | McAfee Blog (2023)

What is Ransomware?

Over the past year, you may have seen the term ransomware popping up frequently. There’s good reason for that as ransomware is responsible for 21% of all cyberattacks, according to a new report. For enterprising hackers, this tactic has become standard operating procedure because it’s effective and organizations are willing to pay. But what does that mean for you and living a confident life online? Fortunately, there are a number of things individuals can do to avoid ransomware. But first, let’s start with the basics.

Ransomware is malware that employs encryption to hold a victim’s information at ransom. The hacker uses it to encrypt a user or organization’s critical data so that they cannot access files, databases, or applications. A ransom is then demanded to provide access. It is a growing threat, generating billions of dollars in payments to cybercriminals and inflicting significant damage and expenses for businesses and governmental organizations.

Why should I care?

McAfee Labs counted a 60% increase in attacks from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020 in the United States alone. Unfortunately, the attacks targeting organizations also impact the consumers who buy from them, as the company’s data consists of its customers’ personal and financial information. That means your data if you’ve done business with the affected company. Fortunately, there are many ways you can protect yourself from ransomware attacks.

How do Iknow if my informationisvulnerable?

When a company is hit with a ransomware attack, they typically are quick to report the incident, even though a full analysis of what was affected and how extensive the breach may have been may take much longer. Once they have the necessary details they may reach out to their customers via email, through updates on their site, social media, or even the press to report what customer data may be at risk. Paying attention to official communications through these various channels is the best way to know if you’ve been affected by a ransomware attack.

The connection between phishing and ransomware

The top ransomware infection vectors – a fancy term for the way you get ransomware on your device – are phishing and vulnerability exploits. Of these two, phishing is responsible for a full 41% of ransomware infections. Ironically, this is good news, because phishing is something we can learn to spot and avoid by educating ourselves about how scammers work. Before we get into specific tips, know that phishing can take the form of many types of communications including emails, texts, and voicemails. Also know that scammers are convincingly imitating some of the biggest brands in the world to get you to surrender your credentials or install malware on your device. With that in mind, here are several tips to avoid getting phished.

1. Be cautious of emails asking you to act

If you receive an email, call, or text asking you to download software or pay a certain amount of money, don’t click on anything or take any direct action from the message. Instead, go straight to the organization’s website. This will prevent you from downloading malicious content from phishing links or forking over money unnecessarily.

2. Hover over links to see and verify the URL

If someone sends you a message with a link, hover over the link without clicking on it. This will allow you to see a link preview. If the URL looks suspicious, don’t interact with it and delete the message altogether.

3. Go directly to the source

Instead of clicking on a link in an email or text message, it’s always best to check directly with the source to verify an offer, request, or link.

4. Browse with caution

McAfee offers the free McAfee WebAdvisor, which can help identify malicious websites and suspect links that may be associated with phishing schemes.

Put ransomware fears in your rearview mirror with these tips:

If you do get ransomware, the story isn’t over. Below are 8 remediation tips that can help get your data back, along with your peace of mind.

1. Back up your data

If you get ransomware, you’ll want to immediately disconnect any infected devices from your networks to prevent the spread of it. This means you’ll be locked out of your files by ransomware and be unable to move the infected files. Therefore, it’s crucial that you always have backup copies of them, preferably in the cloud and on an external hard drive. This way, if you do get a ransomware infection, you can wipe your computer or device free and reinstall your files from backup. Backups protect your data, and you won’t be tempted to reward the malware authors by paying a ransom. Backups won’t prevent ransomware, but they can mitigate the risks.

2. Change your credentials

If you discover that a data leak or a ransomware attack has compromised a company you’ve interacted with, act immediately and change your passwords for all your accounts. And while you’re at it, go the extra mile and create passwords that are seriously hard to crack with this next tip.

3. Take password protection seriously

When updating your credentials, you should always ensure that your password is strong and unique. Many users utilize the same password or variations of it across all their accounts. Therefore, be sure to diversify your passcodes to ensure hackers cannot obtain access to all your accounts at once, should one password be compromised. You can also employ a password manager to keep track of your credentials and generate secure login keys.

4. Enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication

Two or multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security, as it requires multiple forms of verification. For instance, you’ll be asked to verify your identity through another device, such as a phone. This reduces the risk of successful impersonation by hackers.

5. Browse safely online

Be careful where you click. Don’t respond to emails and text messages from people you don’t know, and only download applications from trusted sources. This is important since malware authors often use social engineering to get you to install dangerous files. Using a security extension on your web browser is one way to browse more safely.

6. Only use secure networks

Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, since many of them are not secure, and cybercriminals can snoop on your internet usage. Instead, consider installing a VPN, which provides you with a secure connection to the internet no matter where you go.

7. Never pay the ransom

While it is often large organizations that fall prey to ransomware attacks, you can also be targeted by a ransomware campaign. If this happens, don’t pay the ransom. Although you may feel that this is the only way to get your encrypted files back, there is no guarantee that the ransomware developers will send a decryption tool once they receive the payment. Paying the ransom also contributes to the development of more ransomware families, so it’s best to hold off on making any payments. Thankfully there are free resources devoted to helping you like McAfee’s No More Ransomware initiative McAfee, along with other organizations, created www.nomoreransom.org/ to educate the public about ransomware and, more importantly, to provide decryption tools to help people recover files that have been locked by ransomware. On the site you’ll find decryption tools for many types of ransomware, including the Shade ransomware.

7. Use a comprehensive security solution

Adding an extra layer of security with a solution such as McAfee® Total Protection, which includes Ransom Guard, can help protect your devices from these cyber threats. In addition, make sure you update your devices’ software (including security software!) early and often, as patches for flaws are typically included in each update. Comprehensive security solutions also include many of the tools we mentioned above and are simply the easiest way to ensure digital wellness online.


What are some tips to avoid being a victim of ransomware? ›

By following these 16 best practices and investing in premium protection services, you can keep yourself or your organization safe from ransomware attacks.
  • Protect Ports and Settings. ...
  • Download a VPN. ...
  • Install Antivirus Software. ...
  • Secure Backup Files. ...
  • Set Up Configuration Settings. ...
  • Harden Endpoints. ...
  • Apply Network Segmentation.
Feb 17, 2023

What are the best defenses against ransomware? ›

  • Identify assets that are searchable via online tools and take steps to reduce that exposure.
  • Protecting Against Ransomware.
  • Understanding Patches and Software Updates.
  • Using Caution with Email Attachments.
  • SMB Security Best Practices.
  • Website Security.
  • Rising Ransomware Threat to Operational Technology Assets.

What are the top 3 causes of successful ransomware attacks? ›

Phishing, remote desk protocol (RDP) exploitation and software vulnerabilities are the principal root causes of ransomware infections.

What is most important to ensure to prevent ransomware attacks? ›

Install Antivirus Software & Firewalls

Comprehensive antivirus and anti-malware software are the most common ways to defend against ransomware. They can scan, detect, and respond to cyber threats.

What are the 8 items that are suggested in securing your network? ›

What are the main types of network security?
  • Firewalls.
  • Access Control.
  • Anti-malware Software.
  • Application Security.
  • Data Loss Prevention.
  • Email Security.
  • Security Information and Event Management.
  • Mobile Device Security.
Sep 5, 2019

What is the most common way to get infected with ransomware? ›

Ransomware is often spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or through drive-by downloading. Drive-by downloading occurs when a user unknowingly visits an infected website and then malware is downloaded and installed without the user's knowledge.

What is the biggest risk when it comes to ransomware attacks? ›

Victims are at risk of losing their files, but may also experience financial loss due to paying the ransom, lost productivity, IT costs, legal fees, network modifications, and/or the purchase of credit monitoring services for employees/customers.

What is the best practice to recover from ransomware? ›

Restore From Backup

The fastest way to recover from ransomware is to simply restore your systems from backups. For this method to work, you must have a recent version of your data and applications that do not contain the ransomware you are currently infected with.

What is the last line of defense against ransomware? ›

Your Last Line of Defense Matters Most

Start by implementing proper backup and recovery processes with well-defined frequency. We strongly recommend that you follow the new 3-2-1-1 backup rule: Keep three copies of your data, one primary and two backups.

Who does ransomware target the most? ›

The education sector has become a top ransomware target in recent years, with colleges and universities sustaining particularly frequent blows. In Sophos' 2022 survey, 64% of higher education institutions said they had experienced ransomware attacks over the previous 12 months.

Who is most affected by ransomware? ›

The most common entry point for ransomware is phishing. Organisations in the US are the businesses most likely to be affected by ransomware, accounting for 47% of attacks. Ransomware was the most common attack type for the manufacturing industry in 2021.

What is the most malicious ransomware? ›

With ransomware attacks becoming one of the most dangerous cyber threats in the world, Tech Republic has identified four of the most dangerous and destructive ransomware groups of 2022. ALPHV, also known as BlackCat, is at the top of the list.

What are the top two targets for ransomware attacks? ›

Healthcare accounted for nearly 20% of all incidents that involved compromised data, followed by manufacturing and utilities. Home care firms are among the providers that have come under attack by cyber criminals in recent years.

What are the 3 A's of network security? ›

Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) is a three-process framework used to manage user access, enforce user policies and privileges, and measure the consumption of network resources.

What are the 4 pillars of network security? ›

Protecting the Four Pillars: Physical, Data, Process, and Architecture.

What is the 6 proven ways to secure a computer network? ›

Here are 10 proven ways to secure a computer network.
  • Install and monitor firewall performance.
  • Update Passwords When Needed and/or Yearly.
  • Lean on Advanced Endpoint Detection.
  • Create a virtual private network (VPN)
  • Train your employee.
  • Filter and delete spam emails.
  • Shut down computers when not in use.
  • Encrypt your files.
Oct 5, 2022

Why do I always get ransomware? ›

Some of the ways you can get infected by ransomware include: Visiting unsafe, suspicious, or fake websites. Opening file attachments that you weren't expecting or from people you don't know. Opening malicious or bad links in emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts, or in instant messenger or SMS chats.

Can you get around ransomware? ›

The data that has been encrypted up to this point remains encrypted, but the ransomware virus can be stopped. Early detection means that the malware can be prevented from spreading to other devices and files. If you back up your data externally or in cloud storage, you will be able to recover your encrypted data.

How quickly does ransomware spread? ›

According to Microsoft, nearly 97% of all ransomware infections take less than 4 hours to successfully infiltrate their target. The fastest can take over systems in less than 45 minutes.

What do 91% of ransomware attacks start with? ›

According to reports, 91% of all attacks begin with a phishing email to an unsuspecting victim.

What is the average ransomware payment in 2023? ›

Top Ransomware Attack Statistics 2023

The average cost of a ransomware attack was $1.85 million.

What to do when ransomware attacks? ›

Ransomware can be difficult to remove. For most people, the best way to remove ransomware is to wipe all infected drives and devices and reinstall their operating systems.

Can you protect yourself from ransomware? ›

Use VPN services on public Wi-Fi networks: Conscientious use of public Wi-Fi networks is a sensible protective measure against ransomware. When using a public Wi-Fi network, your computer is more vulnerable to attacks. To stay protected, avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions or use a secure VPN service.

Does wiping a computer remove ransomware? ›

The surest way to confirm malware or ransomware has been removed from a system is by doing a complete wipe of all storage devices and reinstall everything from scratch. Formatting the hard disks in your system will ensure that no remnants of the malware remain.

Is there a way to defeat ransomware? ›

Strong, Reputable Endpoint Anti-Virus Security

One of the most important ways to stop ransomware is to have a very strong endpoint security solution. These solutions are installed on your endpoint devices, and block any malware from infecting your systems.

What is the 3 2 1 backup rule ransomware? ›

The 3-2-1 rule states that in order to be fully protected, organizations must have three copies of their data on two different types of media, with one copy off site. The rule was created when tape was the backup media of choice and predates cloud backups, which explains why it might be due for an upgrade.

What are your choices if you are hit by ransomware? ›

Victims of malware attacks have three options after an infection: they can either pay the ransom, try to remove the malware, or restart the device. Attack vectors frequently used by extortion Trojans include the Remote Desktop Protocol, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities.

How long do ransomware attacks last? ›

IBM research from 2022 found: The average cost of a ransomware attack was $4.54 million. The average time to identify and contain an attack was 326 days. 50% of small businesses impacted by a ransomware attack were unprofitable within a month.

Who can fall victim to ransomware? ›

FINANCIAL SECTOR: The nature of the financial sectors which normally involves the handling of their clients' personal information, such as their credit card details, social security number, contact information, makes them a perfect target for cybercriminals.

What are the tips for ransomware response? ›

Use security products or services that block access to known ransomware sites. Configure operating systems or use third party software to allow only authorized applications on computers. Organizations should restrict or prohibit access to official networks from personally-owned devices.

What can you do to help prevent ransomware quizlet? ›

Ensure application patches for the operating system, software, and firmware are up to date, including Adobe Flash, Java, Web browsers, etc. Ensure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and regular scans are conducted.

What is the first thing you should do if you are demanded for ransomware? ›

Ransomware can be difficult to remove. For most people, the best way to remove ransomware is to wipe all infected drives and devices and reinstall their operating systems.

How the United States can deter ransomware attacks? ›

The incursion might have been prevented by basic internet hygiene practices—deactivating old accounts, mandating frequent password updates and two-factor user authentication, and practicing running company operations from backup data.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duncan Muller

Last Updated: 12/21/2023

Views: 5695

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duncan Muller

Birthday: 1997-01-13

Address: Apt. 505 914 Phillip Crossroad, O'Konborough, NV 62411

Phone: +8555305800947

Job: Construction Agent

Hobby: Shopping, Table tennis, Snowboarding, Rafting, Motor sports, Homebrewing, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Duncan Muller, I am a enchanting, good, gentle, modern, tasty, nice, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.