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Defending against cyber attacks

Cyber attack ransomware

Photo: iStock

You’ve probably heard the news this week – a cyber attack has struck computers and networks around the world, an attack of an ‘unprecedented level’ according to Europol. Including major companies like Renault and Nissan, hospitals and consumers, the WannaCry ransomware virus has infected more than 230,000 Windows computers round the world, encrypting files and demanding payment in bitcoin.

“The European Cybercrime Centre, EC3, at Europol is working closely with affected countries cybercrime units and key industry partners to mitigate the threat and assist victims. The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits,” said Europol.

So what can you do to protect against such threats? We asked our IT expert for a few simple tips.

Backup your machine. If you’ve got a copy of your files then you won’t have to pay a ransom to get them back. If you don’t back up your machine (which is a bad idea), make a copy of any important files to Dropbox, or Google Drive, both of which you can use for free to certain limits.

Make sure your computer is up-to-date. For those of you with Windows machines, run Windows Update – Microsoft has released security patches as far back as Windows XP.

Install the free 30-day evaluation version of Malwarebytes. There is a paid version available, but you can revert to the free version once the trial is over.

Make sure your antivirus is installed and up-to-date. If you have no antivirus there are plenty of free options available such as AVG and ZoneAlarm.

Your behaviour is key. Avoid clicking on links from unknown sources. If you receive an attachment from someone you don’t know, email them to confirm they’ve sent it.

If you’ve been affected by WannaCry or are searching for more information about ransomware and how to guard against it, is a handy free resource developed by Europol, Dutch police and industry partners.

When not writing about all things personal finance, You & Your Money's editor Conor Forrest enjoys reading, football and getting lost in an ocean of Wikipedia articles.