What You Need to Know About Ransomware

On the news and in the technology world, there has been a lot of recent talk about ransomware. This big jump in notoriety is due to the fact that attacks are increasing in both numbers and severity. What exactly is ransomware, and how does it work? Read on for the full story.

What Ransomware Is

Ransomware is a nasty business that has the ability to wreak havoc in your life. Created by hackers, this software embeds into computers, encrypts your files and blocks the use of your computer. The culprits then demand you pay them a ransom in order to regain access to your important business and personal files.

Who is at Risk of Attack

This manner of cyber extortion is nothing new. It has been around for many years. However, recent high-level and increasing attacks are putting this cybercrime in the forefront. In February of this year, a Los Angeles hospital became a victim of hackers using ransomware. They held system files hostage, demanding money. This put hospital operations and patient safety and privacy at risk. In the end, the hospital forked over $17,000. Similar hacks are happening all over the world. Unfortunately, they usually work.

Hospitals are not the only ones at risk. Individuals and businesses, anyone who uses a computer, has the potential to become a victim. Often, ransomware hackers base the amount of money they demand on how much they believe the victim can afford. It can range from a couple hundred dollars from individuals to hundreds of thousands, even millions, from businesses.

Hackers play on the emotions of individuals to gain their reward. They threaten people with the loss of anything with a sentimental value, such as family pictures. They also use fear. Some ransomware users successfully pose as law enforcement, even using FBI logos. They cite false crimes and demand money as restitution.

The dangers ransomware hackers pose to businesses are shutting out access to operating systems, holding hostage sensitive information, including that of clients, and even threatening to release private client information. Most victims see little choice and pay the ransom.

How Ransomware Gets In

Hackers implant ransomware by breaking into systems and networks and downloading software. They also use phishing techniques. When a user opens a malicious email attachment or clicks on a URL, ransomware downloads and the computer is infected. Piracy websites, as well as pornographic websites, sometimes contain infectious links and what is called malvertising that leads to ransomware. However, they are not the only websites where these malicious clicks happen. Using the fear of being caught in a precarious circumstance usually leads the victim to pay up.

In order to put up a defense against such attacks, there are several things individuals and businesses can do. Solid, up-to-date antivirus is the first. Having backups of your files is another. There are many backup options these days; however, some hackers have begun to attack these and erase their victims’ backup files. For individuals without an immense amount of information to protect, an external hard drive may make sense. The key is to back up often, keeping in mind hackers could catch you in between. Businesses and persons with more information should consider consulting IT professionals for advice and help with protection and recovery in case of an attack.

Ransomware hackers are in business. Each day, they send out attacks, invade privacy, and threaten livelihoods of people and businesses. With an increase of occurrences, we need to increase our security and preparedness.

If you would like to learn more about ransomware, or see how we can help build your defense or recovery, please contact us.