Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Protect Your Data from Ransomware

As part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the CALS IT team will be promoting best practices that can protect your data and your computers. 

Ransomware is the number one attack method being used by cybercriminals today for their own financial gain.  This type of attack involves blocking a person’s access to their personal information or critical organizational data by encrypting it, rendering the data unreadable without the proper key, which is held by the attacker and offered for payment.  Higher education is as big of a target as any other business, so in addition to following best practices for protecting data and partnering with your local IT staff to manage and secure your computers, what else can you do?  An answer is to make sure you have a current backup of your data.

Your departmental IT staff have likely incorporated data protection measures for your university-managed computers, so work with them to see how your campus data is safely backed up.  Check with your local IT team to see what backup options they support as a departmental standard.  They may use one of the listed on this Knowledge Base article or have other solutions your department has purchased.  

It is recommended that you do not store critical or high-risk data on your computer, so be sure to work with your IT staff to ensure data is stored in the right place.  It is recommended to store your files on UW-Madison Box, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or local shared drives provided by your department.  These services have backup solutions built-in and security protections that limit the likelihood of a successful ransomware attack. 

A final approach is to back up an additional copy of your data to external, encrypted hard drives using backup software such as Microsoft Backup and Restore, Apple Time Machine, or a third-party product such as Déjà Dup. 

Please reach out to your local IT staff to see how you can ensure you are protected against ransomware attacks. You can also use these best practices for backups to protect your personal computers from ransomware or data loss outside of the university.