Ransomware is evolving like an uncontrolled virus. Don’t be the next victim! Here’s what you need to know about ransomware:
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a subset of malware that isolates a victim’s data and then demands a payment for release. It is often embedded inside seemingly harmless software and applications. It activates as soon as the user launches the program. Devices can also be infected through email links or malicious websites.
How does a ransomware attack work?
There are two primary types of ransomware: locker and crypto.
Locker ransomware locks victims from using important device functions, like accessing a desktop or browsing the internet.
Crypto, the more common form, encrypts files using a unique algorithm and demands a ransom payment.
Cybercriminals usually demand payment in bitcoins. This form of digital currency allows you to pay for goods or services remotely, using a mobile app or a computer. Every bitcoin transaction is anonymous, making it the payment method of choice for cybercriminals.
To pay or not to pay?
Experts are on the fence about this million-dollar question.
Joseph Bonavolonta, the ASA in charge of the FBI’s Cyber and Counterintelligence Program, claims that the FBI often advises people to pay the ransom, explaining that when more people pay the ransom, it keeps ransoms low. He also believes that most scammers keep their word and will decrypt the victim’s files.
However, other FBI officials urge victims not to pay the ransom. They say there is never a guarantee of the files’ return and that paying the ransom encourages more attacks.
Everyone agrees, though, that victims should seek assistance from law enforcement agencies and share the details of the attack. The law enforcement agents will tell them whether they’ve seen this group attack before and whether it tends to decrypt files in return for payment.
If your computer has been infected and you decide to pay the ransom, your payment can be anywhere from $200 to $10,000. Before you pay, though, do a quick search to find out if there’s a decryption tool online.
If you decide not to pay the ransom, shut down your computer and disconnect from your network. Scan your computer with an anti-virus or anti-malware program and let it remove everything on your device.
Be proactive. Strengthen your email’s spam filter, don’t ever click on suspicious links, and never download mobile apps from unfamiliar application stores.
Make sure your operating system is protected with a strong firewall, spyware and sufficient, updated anti-virus software.
Finally, back up your files on an external hard drive or on a USB every few weeks.
If the unthinkable happens, contact a law-enforcement agency for assistance and check for a decryption tool online. If you do decide to pay, be sure to take preventive measures against future attacks.
Your Turn: Have you been the victim of a ransomware attack? Share your experience with us in the comments!