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The Threat of Ransomware

The Threat of Ransomware

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that requires the user to pay a ransom to gain access back to their files or device. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has seen an increase in ransomware attacks in the last few years and many of the businesses that are affected by the virus pay the ransom to get their data back. It’s most commonly spread through phishing emails or inadvertently visiting an infected website.

 

Types of Ransomware

There are two types of ransomware: Crypto and Locker. Crypto ransomware denies a victim’s access to their files. Once the ransomware is in the device, it “silently identifies and encrypts valuable files.” The user completely loses access to their files when they are encrypted by ransomware. After encrypting the files, it asks the user for a fee to unlock their files, only available for a limited time. If the amount isn’t paid in the allotted time, it usually increases.

 

Locker ransomware denies access to the entire device, restricting the user from seeing the screen. The only capabilities the user has is communicating with the attacker and paying the ransom. A common message that’s shown states that the user was involved in illegal activity and will be arrested if the fine isn’t paid by a specific date. This creates a sense of urgency among victims that leads to them thinking paying the ransom is the best solution.

 

How Can You Prevent Ransomware?

You should regularly update software and systems when updates are made available because outdated applications are highly targeted. In addition, backup your data. Keeping it on a separate device will prevent you from completely losing your data, should it be stolen. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails and be wary of unexpected emails.

 

Improving your password is an easy way to protect yourself from ransomware because passwords are one of the most vulnerable cyber defenses. Use a strong and long password that is unique to each device or account. Here are some tips to create a strong password.

  • Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters
  • Add numbers and symbols into the mix
  • Don’t use words or numbers that relate to something people can look up about you or anyone related to you (i.e. birthday, names, places, etc.)

 

Preventing ransomware attacks in the workplace requires additional security. However, the strongest line of defense is your employees. Properly training them on what to look for in a ransomware attack could save your organization from a cybersecurity disaster. Teaching your team security basics will give them the resources and knowledge to raise alarm as soon as suspicious activity is detected.

 

One best practice in the workplace is to restrict users’ permissions to install software applications. This simple precaution could prevent malware from spreading through a network. You could also enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails. Phishing emails are fraudulent emails that get you to share personal information. Spam filters can prevent the users from seeing the email, much less opening it.

 

How Do You Respond to Attacks?

First, DO NOT pay the ransom. Chris Boyd, malware analyst at Malwarebytes, says, “We strongly advise not to pay the ransom, as it simply encourages the scammers to continue with their profitable business model.” There isn’t a guarantee that your data will be restored after paying the ransom or if it is, it could be damaged.

 

Once you identify the affected device, remove it from your network. Ransomware spreads through your network connection. Removing the affected device from the network will decrease the damage done to other devices. Notify all employees of the cyber attack and unfortunately, your customers as well. Awareness of the issue will increase caution among all users.

 

To fix the issue entirely, Boyd claims, “A lot of ransomware is poorly coded, or master keys are leaked, and it’s worth checking online to see if anyone has built a decryptor tool.” Try to be resourceful and find a solution such as this one. Make sure to report the attack so a permanent solution can be made.

 

Have you been a victim of a ransomware attack? Report it by emailing The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at www.us-cert.gov/report.

 

Want to know how to set up measures on your system to prevent ransomware and other viruses? Check out our security courses!.

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