When was the last time you backed up your computer ?
If you have to think about the answer to this question, stop what you are doing and grab your external hard drive and copy all your important documents and photos immediately. If you prefer to back up to the cloud, that’s fine too – just do it.
Why the urgency you ask ?
Besides the fact that computers can fail at any point without warning, there is a big threat circling the web known as Ransomware and if you switch on your computer and see this, you are a victim:
What is Ransomware ?
Ransomware is a type of software that infiltrates your computer where it encrypts your files so that you can no longer access them without entering the password. Essentially your computer’s info is held hostage. A ransom note appears on your screen saying that unless the hijacker is paid a fee by a specific date, your data will be deleted. The only way to decrypt the files is to enter the password which you get by paying the ransom to the hijacker. This is usually done via Bit Coin or some other electronic method.
Show me the money !
In January 2016, three banks and a pharmaceutical company in India were held hostage to ransomware when thousands of computers were effected within the company essentially preventing employees from working. The hijackers demanded 1 Bit Coin for every computer for the decryption key. 1 Bit Coin by today’s exchange rate is equivalent of $423.70. Multiplying that buy thousands of computer results in millions of dollars.
In the US, according to FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, between April 2014 and June 2015, ransomware cost Americans over $18 million. Ransoms between $200 and $10 000 were paid directly relating to ransomware on services such as “network mitigation, network countermeasures, loss of productivity, legal fees, IT services, and/or the purchase of credit monitoring services for employees or customers.”
But how much money to the hijackers make ?
According to the 2015 Trustwave Global Security Report, criminals make a serious return on investment with malware attacks – a 1425% return to be exact !
Here is how:
The criminal would purchase all the components for the ransomware from the Darkweb. This would include the Payload, Infection Vector, Traffic Acquisition and Daily Encryption for $5900. When attacking 20 000 people daily, the infection rate could be 10% and out of those if 0.5% pay $300 over 30 days that results in $90 000 ! If the criminal would run several of these at the same time, these numbers would triple.
The software seller of this ransomware even offers 30 days support. For those not so techie criminals, for an additional $300 per moth one could extend the support with a Service Level Agreement. Nice.
Whilst sounding very tempting, remember that this is highly illegal…
How to prevent ransomware infection ?
Fortunately ransomware can be avoided with smart behaviour:
- Do not install software from an untrusted source. Ransomware needs to get onto our computer and be installed which is done by the hijacker sending emails and offering deals on websites enticing you to download their free software.
- Ensure that your computer software is up to date. Software is constantly being updated as bugs and security hole are discovered and fixed by the company. These updates are sent so that your computer running these software packages are patched. If you do not update your software you are essentially leaving a door open for cyber criminals to attack your computer.
- Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date. New Viruses and Malware are released hourly into the internet-wild. The anti-virus software constantly needs to get the latest definitions (virus signatures) from the company so it can protect your computer against the latest threats.
- Backup your computer. If you have your computer constantly backed up, in the event when ransomware does enter your computer, you do not have to pay the criminals as you can delete your computer, reinstall your software and retrieve all your information from the back up.
*headline image from Shutterstock.com