Protect yourself
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Protect yourself against ransomware

While there are steps you can take to recover from a ransomware attack, the best thing you can do is understand how to prevent one in the first place.

What it is

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that denies a user access to their files or computer system unless they pay a ransom.

Learn more about ransomware

How to protect yourself from a ransomware attack

Update your devices

Always update your operating system and your apps when new versions are available. You can set this up to happen automatically with Windows and a lot of other applications like Office.

Keep up with your updates

Install an antivirus

Install antivirus software on your computer if you don’t already have it and update it regularly. Scan for viruses regularly and clean up any infections straight away.

If your computer is on Windows, it should already have an antivirus called Windows Defender installed. Make sure it's enabled and scan for viruses regularly. You'll also need to make sure you keep it updated.

Back up your devices

Make sure you back up your files regularly. This includes the files on your computer, your phone, and any other devices you have. You can:

  • get an external hard drive and do an 'offline' or 'cold' backup
  • sign up to a cloud-based service like Dropbox and do a cloud backup.

Consider doing both — have one offline backup on an external hard drive, and do another backup that's kept in the cloud.

Backing up your data and devices

Using the cloud

Don't enable macros in Microsoft Office

A 'macro' is a series of commands you can set up to automate a regular or repeated task in Microsoft Office. Whenever you need to perform the task, you can run the macro and it will do it for you. However, having macros enabled can pose a security risk – it can allow malware, like ransomware, to access your computer.

If you're not sure if you have macros enabled, check in your Office settings.

Enable or disable Macros in Microsoft Office

When you open a document to read and it asks you if you want to enable editing, don't just automatically say yes. If you don't actually need to edit the document, keep it in read-only view. If you do need to edit it, make sure you trust where you got the document from before you go ahead and change permissions.

Get help

If you’ve been targeted by a ransomware attack, you should:

  • restore your system from your most recent backup, or
  • reinstall your operating system if you don’t have a backup, but note that this may erase all of your files.

You could also consider backing up your computer to a new external hard drive before you reinstall the operating system. The files might be able to be decrypted at a later date.

If you're not sure how to do this, or need help to do it, talk to your IT support person or a local computer services company. They can:

  • check to see if you have 'real' ransomware on your computer – sometimes, scammers will just claim to have installed ransomware in your device as a tactic to get you to make a payment to them
  • restore your computer to its factory settings and rebuild it for you if they can’t remove the ransomware. Talk to them about backing up the files on your computer first, incase they can be decrypted later
  • advise you on security to help you stay protected in the future
  • install security protection for you.

Report the issue to CERT NZ

You can also report an online issue or security incident like this to us at CERT NZ.

Get help now