Cyber criminals have become more sophisticated and business-minded. This seems to be the recurring theme with each of the cyber security topics we discuss. In this article we plan to touch on Ransomware. Ransomware is a form of malware that takes over your computer and threatens you with harm. Not physical harm, but you are essentially denied access to your data. Cyber criminals will demand a ransom from the victim in exchange for restoring access to your data upon payment. An important point to note to keep in mind is the exchange isn’t always a truthful one. The article will touch on helpful information to help educate you about ransomware.
How do I get infected with ransomware?
Ransomware can take control of your computer a number of different ways including security holes in your computer but the more common occurrences typically start from phishing spam usually delivered by email. The emails will masquerade as a file you should trust. Once you open the file and the download is complete the ransomware will take over your computer and in most cases begin encrypting your files which in essence limits your access to your files. Once the encryption is completed, the victim is usually presented with a message explaining that your files are now inaccessible and will only be decrypted if the victim sends a payment. In many cases attackers will require the payments be made in Bitcoin.
Should I pay?
Many law enforcement agencies urge you not-to-pay ransomware attackers. This is based on the theory and overall view that more victims who pay will encourage more ransomware attacks. Ransomware attackers tend to be sophisticated when selecting an acceptable price point for the victim. Cyber criminals will many times set the price at a lower amount hoping the company or victim will pay on short notice. This type of activity typically requires more victims with lesser payments. On the flip side, cyber criminals might set an extremely high price point requiring fewer victims to pay in order to meet their financial objectives. In some cases a discount might be initiated for those acting fast. Keep in mind that just because you decide to pay does not mean your access will be granted in return. Cyber criminals are not always truthful as you can imagine.
How can I protect myself?
Make sure your operating system and anti-malware software are patched and up-to-date. This helps limit the vulnerabilities cyber criminals have to exploit. Be very selective and protective of the administrative privileges you grant and software you install. Most importantly, back up your files! This won’t eliminate malware attacks but it will significantly decrease the damage caused by an attack. Backing up you data can be done by using an external hard drive or thumb drive depending on how many files you have. Make sure you perform this action regularly such as daily, weekly or monthly depending on how many files you are manipulating over a period of time.
Some information courtesy CSO from IDG “What is ransomware? How it works and how to remove it”
Some information courtesy CSO from IDG “How does ransomware work? Understanding the economics”