The internet is a wonderful thing, giving us the opportunity to browse memes and watch cat videos to our hearts’ content – but it isn’t without its dangers. Scams, malware, and viruses are commonly known to most frequent internet users, but the prevalence of a new threat known as ‘ransomware’ is busy plaguing South Africans more than ever.

So, what exactly is ‘ransomware’? It’s effectively a malicious piece of software that can take over a person’s PC (or other digital system) and prevent them from accessing it. The party responsible for it then demands money (where the ‘ransom’ bit comes from) in order to restore the user’s access to their own device, allegedly.

The main way that ransomware can be installed is through phishing (scam) emails or by visiting websites with malicious software. Internet and cyber crime is responsible for the loss of over R5.7 billion each and every year, and is unfortunately only predicted to grow going forward.

Ransomware attacks are both illegal from the attackers’ side, but surprisingly also potentially from the victim’s side should they choose to pay a ransom amount. The act of extorting money from anyone (in South Africa and in almost all countries) is a criminally prosecutable offence, but paying a ransom is also technically illegal and could even be counterproductive.

The primary reasons why paying ransom money is ineffective are as follows: there’s no actual guarantee that it will solve the problem or return access to a user’s computer – criminals aren’t exactly known for their integrity. Secondly, and probably most importantly, extracting a successful ransom payment simply encourages criminals to keep using the ransomware tactic.

So, how does one deal with ransomware as an increasingly prevalent occurrence? Like with most things, prevention is better than cure. Establishing secure VPNs, having robust and numerous firewalls, and having multi-factor access controls will all aid in keeping ransomware attacks at bay by making the attacks more difficult.

While it’s a problem for individuals, the biggest risks could be faced by businesses with an online presence, or who depend on online functionality to ply their trade. The best option for an e-business is to enlist the help of professionals that can advise the best ways to protect from ransomware attacks – something that the team at My Online Presence knows all about.

If you’re a business owner that already has a digital platform, or is considering expanding onto one, get in touch with My Online Presence and let them help you secure your online property adequately so that you don’t become a statistic. Their excellent hosting service will put your mind at ease and allow you to continue to grow your online presence with the knowledge that your data is secure.

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