Best Practices for Combating Ransomware

You’ve just clicked on a link. It seems like the sender is safe, and you want to read the message. But as soon as you click the link, you realize something is wrong. Your screen goes dark. Or a large popup covers your screen. You can feel your heartbeat increasing as your sweat glands activate. The realization hits you; you’ve just activated a piece of ransomware.


Although it won’t help free your data or computer system, you should feel better knowing such ransomware attacks have only increased during COVID-19. As more businesses and employees have moved online and toward working from home, there has been an increase in sheer opportunity for cybercriminals.


This increased opportunity has led to a 109 percent year-over-year increase in Ransomware attacks in the U.S. Similarly, in 2020, the average cost of a ransomware attack jumped 60 percent, to $178,254 between the first and second quarter alone.


Because of this increase, it’s more vital now than ever before you understand how to combat and protect yourself and your company against ransomware attacks. In this article, we’ll tell you what ransomware is and some of the best security practices you can follow to protect yourself and your data.


What is Ransomware?

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), ransomware is a type of cyberattack involving hackers who use phishing or other means to introduce malware onto the victim’s computer system. This malware encrypts the victim’s system, rendering the files and data on the system inaccessible to the victim. The hackers then attempt to extract a monetary payment from the victim in exchange for the key to decrypt the compromised files.


Local Impact

If a ransomware scheme has recently impacted you, rest easier knowing these schemes have affected countless individuals and businesses. Locally, Nebraskans were recently privy to a large-scale ransomware attack. In late September, a cyberattack knocked out a local hospital system’s computer technology for several days.

This cyberattack resulted in postponements of patient appointments, an inability to access online medical and billing information, and required employees in the system’s hospitals and clinics to chart by hand. While no patients’ electronic medical records were deleted or destroyed, hospital officials could not confirm whether any medical or financial information was exposed.

This hospital system’s attack is both an example of the increase in cyberattacks overall and the increase in cyberattacks, specifically on organizations involved in COVID-19 treatment or vaccine creation.



How to Avoid a Ransomware Attack

There are several steps everyone can and should take to help avoid a ransomware attack.

  1. Never click on unknown links.
    1. Avoid clicking on links in spam or from unknown websites/senders.
    2. To maintain safety, you can navigate to the site without clicking on the links by typing the site’s address into your browser.
  2. Do not open untrusted attachments.
    1. Look at who the email is from and verify the email address is correct.
    2. Assess that the attachment looks legitimate.
  3. Only download from websites that you trust.
    1. To reduce the risk of downloading ransomware, do not download software or media files from unknown websites.
  4. Avoid giving out personal data.
    1. If you receive a call, text, or email from an untrusted source that asks for personal information, do not give it out.
    2. This information can be used to create targeted attacks against you.
  5. When in doubt, throw it out!


As evidence by the recent cyberattack on one of our local hospitals, it’s essential to understand what ransomware is and how you can avoid such attacks. Without proper cyber etiquette, you can expose yourself and your business to extreme financial and mental damages.


In addition to these individual steps, American National Bank maintains robust processes to combat these damaging cyberattacks. One of the most vital steps we take is to establish an in-depth backup and recovery strategy. Maintaining a strong backup and recovery strategy is even more crucial than preventive controls.


By keeping these ransomware tips in mind, as you go about your daily online activities, you can help save yourself and others, including American National Bank, a significant amount of time, money, and frustration.