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Ransomware is a common trick used by cybercriminals. So how do you stay free of it? What ransomware is and how to stay safe — in 2 minutes or less.

This article originally appeared on Discover & Learn on April 21, 2021

Ransomware is a serious kind of cyber attack. But how does it work? Take two minutes to find out about ransomware and how to keep your files safe.

What’s ransomware?

It’s malware (malicious software) that blocks you from accessing your data on a device. Someone gets their software onto your device and locks your files/folders until you pay to get it back — it’s like if someone changed the locks on your car and then wanted to sell you the key.

Why is it dangerous?

You can’t get to your information, and if you pay, scammers may target you again and get more access to your financial information.

What can you do to avoid ransomware?

Take two minutes to learn how to stay safe from ransomware.

  1. Make backups. The best defense against ransomware is having backup copies of your files. Ransomware can’t attack a storage device that’s unplugged, safely tucked away in a drawer.
  2. Only download files and programs from official sites. A free offer in the form of a file or an unauthorized best-seller PDF may cost you much more. If you’re on your phone, only use the official app store for your phone (Google Play for android phones or the App Store for Apple phones).
  3. Don’t click links or open attachments in unexpected emails. Scammers love to serve up ransomware via phishing emails. So, ignore and delete emails from unknown senders, especially ones with links or attachments.

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from ransomware is to take two minutes to think about these steps before you click, open, or download on your devices.

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