You turn on your computer to check your email or to do some work and you suddenly realize that the folders that contain all your notes and extremely important information are now locked with some funny looking extension like. howcanihelpusir or wowwhereismyfiles. We can laugh because this scenario is only made up, and our files are safe. These extensions have been used by hackers at some point and this is an ever growing concern for all sectors. So what is ransomware and why should we care?
What is Ransomware
Ransomware is a subdivision of malware that denies access to either the computer itself or just certain files, the objective here is to deny access and at the same time to offer the solution (offering to unlock the files encrypted) for a certain amount of money. This is unlike other forms of hacking since usually the last thing a hacker wants is for you, the victim, to find out that your machine is compromised. This is because the longer he/she can maintain access the more information they can steal.
The motive here is not to steal any information, rather to make you pay to have your files decrypted hence ransomware. Payment is usually made in some sort of Cryptocurrency since this helps keep the identity of the attacker unknown. The preferred method to infect machines is either through emails with malicious attachments or apps that have been infected. Some even do this by remotely uploading the malware by first breaking into the device.
Who is being affected and what you can do to stop it.
The Hancock Health Hospital and the Adams Memorial Hospital are amongst the newest victims of ransomware. In one case an Indiana hospital ended up paying $55,000 to get access to their patients’ medical records and important information.
This move has many cyber security experts worried, because if Institutions are willing to pay this will never stop and will only get more popular. To put this into perspective, a Bitcoin wallet that was being used to receive the ransomware payments received more than $150,000 making this type of attack very lucrative.
The saddest part is that these types of malware had been identified by cybersecurity companies, so this definitely could have been avoided. It takes is very little effort to mitigate these threats. First, find the best anti malware program you can find. There are many to choose from either retail or open source (free). The second most important thing is to ensure their library their repository is getting updated frequently. If it doesn’t, you should find one that is regularly updating their malware signature repository. Kaspersky Lab has an anti-ransomware tool that is free of charge regardless of what type program you use.
In July of 2016 Europol along with the Dutch National Police and Kaspersky Lab started a campaign called “The no more ransom Initiative.” It is a non-commercial plan to get the public and private sectors to work together to eradicate ransomware. The online portal offers over 50 different decryption tools. Since its creation, more than 29,000 victims have had been able to remove ransomware from their devices. With more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day worldwide more people need to understand that they don’t have to pay anymore.