How to defend against spam emails carrying ransomware

Ransomware, as well as other forms of malware, are often hidden inside spam emails. Here's what to do to protect yourself

Emails are one of the main vectors used by hackers to infect users. They usually contain an executable file that once opened installs malware on devices. Among the various forms of infected software most conveyed through email are the dreaded ransomware.

Buoyed to the headlines mainly because of WannaCry and Petya, as it is known these are dangerous malware, which generally encrypt the data present in the affected machines. Hackers ask the unfortunate victims to pay a ransom in order to provide them with the keys they need to decrypt the files. Ransomware mainly targets companies and institutions, reservoirs of confidential information. Also known as blackmail viruses, because they threaten to deny users access to their "blacked out" computers, ransomware is a plague that must be defended against.

We'll look at some effective ways to avoid being infected by ransomware that travels by email.

Protect your email

The first thing to do - and this applies to any personal information you publish online - is to try to protect your email. This means limiting the sharing of your email address on the Internet as much as possible. Spam campaigns are often managed by robots, able to accumulate email addresses fished on the net and so flood the users. To fool the machines it is advisable to replace some characters in the email address. It is what is defined in jargon address munging. Here is an example: [email protected]

Use multiple email addresses

To reduce the risks of being hit by spam emails containing some ransomware another solution could be to use an alternative address for unimportant communications. For example, for receiving newsletters and mailing lists it would be advisable to create a secondary email, preserving the "main" one. This way, all the junk that arrives via email will have flowed mostly to the "fake" address.

Enable spam filter

Almost all emails have a spam filter. Although sometimes hackers are able to fool protection systems by performing some sophisticated tricks, it is good to check that the spam filter is active. Some of the emails, which might contain ransomware, do not end up in the inbox this way.

Don't reply to spam emails

Of course, it is crucial not to reply to spam emails. As mentioned before, PCs manage email archives and send all email addresses the same message simultaneously. By replying to the email, you will let the spammer know that your address is active.

Do not open links and attachments

If a spam email arrives, delete it immediately. In the most absolute way then do not click on the links contained in the email. It is also very important not to open attachments. This is where ransomware could be hiding.

Beware of Tuesdays

We close with one last piece of advice.

It seems that, according to some statistics, cyber criminals' favorite day to send spam is Tuesday. So, be careful.