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Tech Tip: Protecting Yourself From Ransomware

Q. What kind of software should I use to protect my computer from ransomware?

A. An up-to-date anti-malware program running on your computer is one way to help block ransomware — that malicious software that wants to invade your system and encrypt your files with demands for payment to release them. Several companies make programs that guard against ransomware and other threats, like Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus (both less than $ 40). PCMag.com is one site that regularly reviews and rates new security software, and you can find reviews from other technology sites around the web.

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Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware for Windows is one of the free security utilities available to protect personal computers from certain types of malicious software. Credit The New York Times

If you want a specific program to protect your files from online hijacking, you have options there, too. ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware is available to download with a free 30-day trial, Trend Micro’s page has free or trial ransomware protection programs, and Bitdefender has a free Anti-Ransomware Tool of its own.

Most ransomware programs are aimed at Windows computers, and Microsoft has its own online guide to protecting your PC from ransomware. The company also includes its Windows Defender Security Center utility for protecting Windows 10 if you do not want to install a third-party program.

Macs are a smaller target for most virus writers, but Mac-specific ransomware is out there. If Apple’s built-in protections for its operating system do not put the mind at ease, commercial Mac security software is readily available; Bitdefender and Webroot make Mac versions of their programs, too.

In addition to security software, assuming a stance of “defensive computing” can help shield you from internet scammers. Steer clear of links and file attachments in messages from people you do not know (or from friends who do not seem to be themselves, possibly because of hacking). Keep your system files backed up regularly so you have copies in case something does happen to your system. The Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuard Online site has tips and videos on protecting yourself from ransomware and other internet threats.

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