Technology

What is Ransomware and what steps can you take so you don’t become a victim

Yes, Ransomware may sound scary, and that’s because it is!

Trend Micro define Ransomware as “A type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files unless a ransom is paid.”

Ransomware can put users into a very tricky situation indeed. How much do you value your data? Do you value them enough to risk paying for access to get them back again? The keyword here being risk. Do you trust the cybercriminal to hand him over your hard earned cash to possibly give you access to a decryption key or decryption tool? Well, some individuals and even large organizations are indeed doing this.

These most recent examples that we have recently seen include WannaCry, Petya and CryptoLocker but there are many more examples.

The malware distribution chart here by Malwarebytes.com from Q1 2017 shows exactly how fast the growth is.

The ransomware attacks on companies have trebled since last year. It is reckoned an attack now occurs once every forty seconds. That is an incredible statistic. As for attacks on induvial consumers, this is also on the rise, but the cybercriminals are targeting more businesses with the ambition of getting their sights on a bigger score.

How much does it cost to get my files back?

The cost of getting your files back can run into the hundreds depending on the ransomware variant and the rates of exchange for digital currencies. The most common payment method is Bitcoin due to the perceived anonymity. You also have the option of employing the services of recovery firms. This could however not prove successful and end up costing far more than the actual ransom.

Again please note that paying the ransom does not guarantee that you’ll receive your software to decrypt your files. Furthermore, if a ransom is paid, it is possible that the attacker still has access to your machine and could again hold you to ransom.

If you have been a victim already, then we recommend first finding out which exact strain of malware has encrypted your files. After this run some online searches and see if any free decryption tools exist. We have some more helpful tips down below.

Ransomware the malware of choice. 

So how does Ransomware get into my system? These are the three common methods.

  • The malicious software can be downloaded unwittingly when you visit a website that has already been compromised by hackers.
  • Via Email. You could be sent an email that contains a Trojan download which in turn attempts to install the Ransomware. This email could be from somebody already on your contacts list. ALWAYS scan attachments no matter who the sender is.
  • Network sharing. Recent ransomware, for example, WannaCrypt exploits the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. It has worm-like capabilities which allow it to spread to other computers on the network.

 

Ransomware is one of the fastest growing online crimes and here are five steps that we recommended you implement to reduce your chances of infection.

  1. Backups. I’ll repeat it again backup your files people. All the files that you can’t afford to lose back them up. If possible to multiple locations. I use the following. Microsoft Onedrive. All my files, pictures and documents get synced automatically to the cloud. This includes my phone, tablet and laptop. I don’t stop there. I also use a Kingston USB HyperX Savage memory dongle. It’s small, easy to carry and has excellent transfer rates (It also looks great). You can find a link here.
  2. Be vigilant. Malware relies on human vulnerabilities. If you receive an email or a link from a friend or client that seems like it might be harmless double check. If you are in any way suspicious then don’t open it this includes social media sites.
  3. Software Updates. Yes, I know this is more common sense but really, think about it. When is the last time you went and checked if your windows updates were checked recently or your virus definitions for that matter? Have you been getting alerts and just hitting that remind be later icon! Now might be the time to stop and update your system’s software regularly or face the consequences. Keep an eye for our upcoming article on what we recommend antivirus solutions.
  4. Disconnect the infected system. The ransomware can spread as we have mentioned. It can travel from one PC to another be that in the home or office. Doing this will limit the spread of the infection until you have cleaned the infected workstation.
  5. Using a Limited account. By this I mean don’t always log in as the system administrator account. For doing daily tasks, you will not require administrative functions so don’t use the admin account. Doing this will limit the ability of malicious software to run under administrative credentials.

In summary, protecting against ransomware can be difficult. The criminals are always coming up with new ways to try and defeat anti-virus software. Use the steps we have recommended, be smart online and try not to become a victim!

If you’re looking for a fast, trendy and cool looking USB to store those important files we have tried and tested the Kingston Digital HyperX Savage. Click here to view on amazon.

 

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