There’s not much to laugh about when you fall victim to ransomware, which is software that encrypts the data on your computer and other connected drives without warning. In the majority of cases, the data can be restored only by paying the cybercriminals a ‘ransom’ in the amount of several hundred francs – or even several thousands in the case of companies.

But you can’t always be certain that you will actually receive the right decryption key after making payment to these criminals. In the worst case scenario, not only will you have handed over your cash, but you still won’t be able to restore your data. In addition, giving in to the extortion attempt merely funds the development of new, more sophisticated versions of this ransomware.

While ransomware is nothing new, the spread of this extortionist software has increased dramatically in recent months. Today’s Ransomware Information Day organized by the Swiss Internet Security Alliance (SISA) therefore provides an occasion for presenting some important tips on using computers, e-mail and the internet.

How does ransomware find its way on to my computer?
Today’s ransomware, malware and viruses have two main distribution channels: e-mails and hacked websites. These e-mails often appear to be highly urgent and tell you that an invoice, delivery confirmation or similar item is attached. The unsuspecting user opens the attachment, and the computer is immediately infected with the malware.

But even legitimate websites can be a gateway: hackers are constantly trying to find security gaps on websites and exploit them for their criminal purposes. One striking example of this is the attack on the news portal 20 Minuten a few weeks ago.

How can I protect myself?
By following a few rules of conduct, you can avoid the majority of potential hazards from the start.

Always be skeptical!
Never hesitate to scrutinize incoming e-mails. Do I know the sender? Am I expecting an e-mail with an invoice, scan, PDF or other similar attachment? If in doubt, never hesitate to question whether the e-mail really originates from the sender.

Back up your data before it’s too late!
Many people think backups are unnecessary ‒ until it’s too late. Regularly back up your data to an external storage device that is not permanently connected to your computer. This ensures that you can access your valuable data if something happens. Our blog post “Backups: save your data before it’s too late!” provides an overview of backup strategies and what to remember when it comes to data backups.

Keep your computers and websites up to date!
Software makers regularly release updates to eliminate errors and vulnerabilities. Install these updates as soon as possible! The same applies to any software and CMS platforms installed in your web hosting account. Our blog post “How to make your website secure” provides tips on improving the security of your websites.

And so you see, just as in real life, by exercising a bit of caution and some healthy common sense you can take a big step towards protecting your data. It pays to err on the side of caution to avoid being left out in the cold sooner or later.

Ransomware – the extortionists are coming!

Thomas Brühwiler

Thomas Brühwiler is Hostpoint's Head of Communication and also responsible for all activities in the social media field. He was already typing on a Commodore 64 in his very young years – he used to copy pages of BASIC code from magazines. Often he had to accept that the program didn’t run because an error had sneaked into the jumble of characters. Today he cannot imagine his life without computers, in spite of those experiences.

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