5 Ways To Become a Smaller Target for Ransomware Hackers

This weekend's global online extortion attack reinforces the need for businesses and other large organizations to update their computer operating systems and security software, cybersecurity experts said.

The attack largely infected networks that used out-of-date software, such as Windows XP, which Microsoft no longer offers technical support for.

"There's some truth to the idea that people are always going to hack themselves," said Dan Wire, a spokesman for security firm FireEye. "You've got to keep your systems updated."

The attack that authorities say swept 150 countries this weekend is part of a growing problem of "ransomware" scams, in which people find themselves locked out of their files and presented with a demand to pay hackers to restore their access.

Hackers bait users to click on infected email links, open infected attachments or take advantage of outdated and vulnerable systems. This weekend's virus was particularly virulent, because it could spread to all other computers on a network even if just one user clicked a bad link or attachment.

Lawrence Abrams, a New York-based blogger who runs BleepingComputer.com, says many organizations don't install security upgrades because they're worried about triggering bugs, or they can't afford the downtime.

Here are five tips to make yourself a less-likely victim:

Make Safe and Secure Backups

Once your files are encrypted, your options are limited. Recovery from backups is one of them. "Unfortunately, most people don't have them," Abrams says. Backups often are also out of date and missing critical information. With this attack, Abrams recommends trying to recover the "shadow volume" copies some versions of Windows have.

Some ransomware does also sometimes targets backup files, though.

You should make multiple backups -- to cloud services and using physical disk drives, at regular and frequent intervals. It's a good idea to back up files to a drive that remains entirely disconnected from your network.

Update and Patch...

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