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What is Ransomware & how can you protect against it?

When most of us think of something of ours being taken for ransom, we typically imagine that classic 90’s action movie plot line where the well-off business owner or politician’s loved ones or valuables are held for ransom, only to be rescued by Arnold Schwarzenegger or Mel Gibson – I know I do!
As a result, we feel that we are not a prime target for a ransom based attack when in reality, ransom attacks can happen to anyone at any time and our favourite action heroes are powerless to help us.

Why? Because these attacks are happening to our Computers and Servers.
Ransomware is that latest form of cybercrime that is plaguing the internet and users alike, and is leaving many Australian business owners out of pocket or unable to continue.

So, what exactly is Ransomware?

Imagine you or your staff log into the computer (just like you do any other day) only to find the screen locked and unable to boot up. A message appears notifying you that the device has been encrypted and that you will need to pay a ransom to retrieve your files.
This is ransomware, and is the last thing any PC user or business owner wants so see happen to them.
Ransomware is a form of malicious software or malware that either restricts access to your computer or device, or in most cases encrypts your data until you pay a ransom to re-gain access (Commonly referred to as CryptoLocker).

Payment is typically requested in the form of BitCoin – making it near impossible to trace the transaction back to the criminal responsible.
At the time of this article, 1 BitCoin = $1,957.34 AUD.
Check the current BitCoin to AUD conversion rate here.

(Pictured: A screen grab of a device infected by a strain of Ransomware called Jigsaw. View Source)

How was this malware able to get into my system?

There are several different ways that this malware makes its way into your system and understanding how this virus is spread will help you take preventive measures.
The most common cases were caused by users:

  • Opening or selecting a link via spam email.
  • Visiting suspicious websites that may lead to a Watering Hole Attack
  • Engaging with email that may be part of a Spear Phishing Attack
  • Scareware Tactics are also used to trick users into downloading and installing what appears to be legitimate software (most commonly anti-virus software)

As you can see, it is important to stay vigilant when searching the web or using your email.

What can I do to prevent this kind of attack?

With continued increases in ransomware modifications, this threat is constantly evolving and taking on new forms and attributes making it difficult for users to protect themselves from these attacks.
The best methods are to avoid opening or engaging with any suspicious emails (especially those containing attachments) or websites. Ensuring that all programs on your device are running the latest versions, as outdated programs and applications can leave holes in your system easily accessible by cyber criminals. And lastly, ensure that you always have a recent backup of your device or data to restore to if needed.
For this we recommend a cloud based solution (hosted in a secure location). This is because backups made to hard drives or USB devices may not always be reliable – Have you ever had an external storage devices fail on you? I know I’ve been burnt! View our guide to best backup practices here.

Ask out team about what cloud backup solutions we can help you with today.

It is important to note: You should never submit and pay an attackers ransom as there is no guarantee that your files or system will be restored to you and as some unlucky customers have found, the authorities are virtual powerless to track these attacks and assist.

ben.paterson@ozhosting.com

By Ben Paterson

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