What Is Ransomware?

What Is Ransomware?

 

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is vicious malware.  It encrypts your data and makes it inaccessible unless you send money.  You can only hope that if you pay the hacker sends you the decryption key.

You should become urgently aware of ransomware and routinely fight against it.  The problem has been growing.  In the previous year it reportedly grew by 2,500%.  You could suddenly see a message on your screen like the one below.

Ransomware Suddenly Announces Your Data is Inaccessible

Ransomware can be delivered to your computer in a variety of ways.  An email attachment, for example, is a typical tool that can be used to infect your system.  The cyber criminal’s goal is to get you to “click” on a nefarious attachment installed on your computer.

The use of Spamware is another delivery method that can be used to draw in users into taking action to implement ransomware.  There are a number of nasty techniques.  Avoid clicking on unsolicited offers or questionable links.  Evolving ransomware is now automated and some attacks are hosted by cybercriminal organizations that sell ransomware as a service for a percentage of the amount stolen.

One is for the hacker to use an invisible web page placed behind the one that is observed on the screen.  An unsuspecting computer user could click on a particular area on the screen and the downloading of the ransomware would begin without the user’s knowledge.

Special Note:  The security software publisher Panda produced the informative video shown below.  We are unfamiliar with Panda’s effectiveness against ransomware but endorse its characterization of ransomware.

Everyone Should Fear Ransomware

Cyber thieves use ransomware attacks to extort monies from institutions, businesses, personal computers and even mobile devices (particularly Android systems).  User awareness is a major factor that can influence whether a ransomware attack can succeed.  Keeping all of your software updated is important, too.

Backing up your data is one of your main defenses against a ransomware attack.  You must remember, however, that anything connected to your network can be infected by ransomware.  That includes the data stored in the cloud.

Your backup must be stored separate and apart from your electronic data system.  Andra Zaharia, a self described at Heimdahl, lists 15 items to take anti-ransomware to a higher level.

I’ve paraphrased her comments below:

1.)  Avoid storing critical data on a PC.

2.)  Maintain at least two full backups on a removable hard drivediately close out the connection.

3.)  Sync your data to whatever cloud solution you use and immediately close out the connection.

4.)  Update and patch all operating system and application software.

5.)  Consider using a guest account (rather than an administrator account) for daily use.

6.)  Turn off all macros (special command sequences). Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Java, etc.

7.)  Remove browser plug-ins (Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java and Silverlight.  Set the browser to request activation.

8.)  Maximize your browser’s security settings.

9.)  Remove any older software or plugins that you don’t use any more.

10.)  Use an ad blocker to avoid malicious ads.

11.)  Never open email from unknown senders.

12.)  Never download attachments.

13.)  Never click on questionable links.

14.)  Purchase and use a reputable antivirus product and set it to automatically update.

15.)  Consider using a traffic filtering solution.

Another source suggests disabling what is known as Remote Desktop Services if you don’t require it.

I would personally recommend that you avoid maintaining a persistent connection to the Internet.  Shut down your computer when you are finished working.

You need to have a backup plan in place.  One solution that appears to have merit is to consider using a tape drive that is never connected to the Internet.  You’ll have to wipe your computer should you be infected by malware.  Therefore, you must be prepared to restore your data from the backup you maintain – after terminating your connection to the Internet.

Summary

Ransomware is a major attack tool that cyber criminals use.  The malware denies the users access to their data.  The target’s information is typically encrypted and a payment is demanded to obtain the “key” to unlock the infected system.  The problem is growing.

Protecting your system involves following security best practices and developing a solid backup plan.

 

 

 

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