By now, you’ve heard the name. Ransomware is in the news, on the web, and could be attached to your next e-mail.
What is it?
In the simplest terms, ransomware is a computer virus that changes your files into unreadable garbage, and then demands money from you to change them back. Efforts to recover just a handful of files on the cheap are subverted by recent versions of this awful software; it can now change the name of your files prohibiting cherry-picking important ones.
And if you think that’s bad, they’ll even offer to let you off the hook for infecting two of your “friends”.
Ransomware is often delivered via e-mail, as common file attachments. The suspect e-mail messages are very difficult to pick apart from legitimate ones. These messages are well-written, appear as being sent from known senders (Aunt Dottie, USPS, even the FBI) and compel the reader to open the attachment.
The virus can also be delivered by way of website infection. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to actually click “download” on a website to become infected.
You can’t always follow the money.
It’s a bit complex but the bad guys are almost exclusively accepting BitCoin as payment. This screen grab from Swordfish (2001 Warner Bros. Pictures) illustrates a method hackers use to cover their tracks.
The hackers utilize numerous digital wallets (many of which have been stolen) to filter the funds, and distribute them in very small pieces. Though this isn’t the only method used, it is one which is very challenging to uncover.
Protect yourself against ransomware!
Disconnecting from the Internet isn’t always a viable choice. The easiest and most effective ways to safeguard your files are:
Develop a Healthy Sense of Paranoia for Internet Exchanges
Whether you’re surfing sites, installing software, or reading e-mails, take the time to read through, before allowing a download. Call or send a new (don’t forward the original) e-mail to the colleague(s) asking if they’ve sent attachments to you. Lastly, consult a trusted IT adviser if ever in doubt.
Anti-Virus Alone is NOT Good Enough
No anti-virus is 100% effective. Ransomware is a relatively new threat, and there’s no clear champion of protection, yet. You can start by downloading these add-ons:
–CryptoPrevent: Note that this software may not be effective against all existing and emerging threats.
–MalwareBytes: This software can be an invaluable companion to your existing anti-virus software. Year after year, we have yet to test a more effective, comprehensive anti-virus title. Interested? Contact Us.
Employ a Backup Solution, Immediately
There are an infinite number of backup services available. Here are guidelines for selecting a vendor:
-Ensure the backup utilizes off-site facilities (more than an external drive connected to your computer).
-Be sure the solution has a private or commercial “Cloud Storage” technology built-in.
-Ask your candidate if they throttle your uploads/downloads.