What is Ransomware?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 6:35 am, Posted by Absolute Destruction

Cybersecurity is an ever-changing landscape. As legitimate businesses reinforce defences with more effective security, cybercriminals craft an improved offence with more aggressive attacks. As the two sides parry back and forth, the nature of electronic threats will evolve. It should come as no surprise to learn that, in addition to the age-old phishing scams and Trojan horses, the arsenal of the average cybercriminals has expanded to include something called ransomware.

Ransomware is a different kind of malware from phishing. Whereas phishing relies on tricking the targeted individual into releasing their confidential information, ransomware doesn’t attempt to steal this information. Instead, its software prevents an individual from accessing their files by unleashing an encryption virus that locks some or all of their data. Rather than collecting this information to defraud money from the unsuspecting user, ransomware restricts access. They use such an complicated encryption that it’s impossible to decrypt without an ecryption key – which cybercriminals using this software will provide for a price.

The number of ransomware attacks has increased over the past three years, with highly successful trojans like CryptoLocker, TorrentLocker, and Cryptowall. According to Intel Security Group (which was previously known as McAfee) the number of ransomware attacks in 2013 more than doubled than those that transpired in 2012. Since then, Symantec has reported a 35% increase in ransomware, affecting not just desktop and laptops but expanding to target smartphones, tablets, and Apple products.

If you or one of your employees have been victim of a ransomware attack, you have two options. Unfortunately, neither of them is in your best interest. Since the encryption on this kind of malware is so advanced, there’s no way to decrypt them. The FBI has officially stated that the only way to get your files back is by paying the ransom. The price of your data will vary depending on your industry and nature of your information, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 and $10,000. That can be a bitter pill to swallow; however, so is the alternative. If you can’t pay up, the affected computer is out of commission. You’ll have to replace the device and start from scratch in terms of files.

The latter may end up costing you more time and money than the ransom fee, but there’s no way of knowing these criminals will release your information once their ransom is met. There’s no ‘right’ way to how to handle these attacks. The better alternative is to invest in the appropriate preventative measures so that your business’ electronics are never seized by this newer malware. Training is absolutely essential. Your employees won’t know how to avoid ransomware if they don’t know what it is. Make sure they know how to identify what a ransomware email looks like, and reiterate your policy on downloading files and other attachments.

As you update your staff’s training, take this as an opportunity to evaluate the state of your business’ overall cyber security. It’s important that, in protecting yourself against newer threats, you don’t forget about old ones. When you’re ready to throw out old hard drives and computers, remember that they’re still vulnerable to attack. Thieves can find them and reveal hidden files, even if you had wiped your electronic clean. Before you throw anything out, make sure to call us. We can destroy any device so effectively that there’s no possible way to reconstruct the electronic.

The rate of ransomware may be skyrocketing, but as long as you take the appropriate measures to educate your staff and protect your tech, you won’t have anything to worry about.

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