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How to avoid a ransomware attack


Cybercriminals want to steal your data and demand money from you to get it back. Don’t let them!

  • Finance
  • Read Time: 5 mins

Keep one step ahead of the thieves


October is Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM) and all Australians are urged to improve their cyber security knowledge and take action to protect their information and devices. 

In collaboration with National Seniors, the Australian Federal Police has created videos that explain how to stay ahead of cyber criminals.

National Seniors’ research has showed that older people who were less familiar with digital technology were most likely to report being scammed.

National Seniors Australia Chief Operating Officer Chris Grice said, “With the removal of cheques and the transition towards a cashless society, seniors have no choice but to transact online, exposing them to potential cybercrimes.

“In collaboration with the AFP, National Seniors aims to empower seniors with the knowledge, tools, and confidence they need to stay safe in the digital world.”

View the videos here. 

Not that long ago, the term “ransom” was used mainly in relation to kidnappings.

An important or wealthy person would be seized by criminals, who would demand a huge amount of money, or some political or legal concession.

These stories often made for exciting movies or television dramas, but they were tragically common in real life.  

These days, many criminals have moved into the virtual world, and it is data rather than people being snatched and held for monetary reward. 

As Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commander Chris Goldsmid says in one of a series of videos released for Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM), it’s a type of crime that is becoming more common as our reliance on computers and other internet-connected devices increases.

The CSAM theme for 2023, “Be cyber wise – don’t compromise”, encourages businesses and individuals to take these four steps:

  • Update your devices regularly.

  • Turn-on multi-factor authentication.

  • Backup your important files.

  • Use passphrases and password managers.

Ransomware extortion


Commander Goldsmid says it’s important for all of us to know how to identify an attack using ransomware, which is malicious software that detects and locks down files on our computer, tablet or mobile phone.

You can infect your device by clicking on a link in an email, SMS or social-media message, or by visiting certain websites.

You will then get a message from the cybercriminal, who will demand a large amount of money to unlock your files.

In “double extortion” cases, the criminal will also threaten to leak your data online if you don’t pay the ransom.

Payment is usually demanded in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, as it is much harder to trace than other forms of money transfer.

Avoid extortion


Simple steps to protect yourself from ransomware attacks include:

  • Don’t open links or attachments in suspicious emails.

  • Use antivirus software and regularly update apps on your devices.

  • Backup your data regularly.

While backing up won’t stop your data from being stolen or locked, it will minimise any loss because you can restore your device to its status before it was infected.

If you become a victim of extortion:

  • Do NOT pay the ransom because this will not guarantee that you regain access to your data or prevent the criminal from using it or selling it. Paying up can also mean that you will be subject to future attacks because you are seen as a soft target.

  • If there is an immediate threat to life or risk of harm, call 000. 

To learn more about ways to tackle cybercrime, visit afp.gov.au/cyber

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