Ransomware : Don’t become a victim. Here’s how to stay safe.

Ransomware–don’t be its next victim. Learn how to stay safe online.

With the introduction of “WannaCry” ransomware in May, ransomware has captured the attention of all those who use the Internet to shop, communicate and just about everything else. The consequences of ransomware are so real that everyone should get protected.

What is ransomware?

It’s malware that locks down your files and keeps you from accessing them until you pay a ransom. Depending on the type of ransomware, that ransom could be anything of value that can be digitally transferred from Bitcoins to iTunes gift cards. If you paid the ransom the villains may release your files, but there are no guarantees.

You’ve probably heard how ransomware has attacked businesses and their operations (Equifax of late), but individuals are a major target as well. Unlike businesses most people don’t have the know-how to get rid of the ransomware on their own and often end up paying to get their data back. Therefore, you have to focus on prevention.

Given its potential impact, here are three important facts on ransomware you should understand as you take steps to protect yourself and your files.

Phishing Is the source of most ransomware

Most ransomware attacks come from phishing emails. There’s a good chance that those sketchy-looking messages pretending to be from your bank or another company contain some type of malware, and it could be ransomware. Your best bet? Use security software to block phishing emails, and if any slip through, ignore and delete.

Hackers target out-of-date software

Getting those notices to update your computer or mobile device software can be annoying, but hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit in software. Ransomware is most likely to take hold on devices don’t aren’t running the most up-to-date versions of software. Installing updates can mean the difference between an infected device and blissful ignorance of malware.

All connected devices are at risk

Finally, it’s not just your computer that’s at risk for ransomware. Any connected devices — smartphones, tablets, even your smart TV or thermostat. That’s right — hackers could hold your thermostat hostage, raising or lowering the temperature by a few degrees for every hour you don’t pay.