Well we have all heard of viruses and spyware and spam, but how many of you are familiar with ransomware?
In the recent weeks we have have seen at least two businesses that were hit with attacks that rendered their computer useless. Well let me re-phrase that, it was worse than useless. The computer was fine but they lost all of their data!
What is Ransomware?
Wikipedia says forms of ransomware encrypt files on the system’s hard drive, while some may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying. Modern ransomware attacks were initially popular within Russia, but in recent years there have been an increasing number of ransomware attacks targeted towards other countries, such as Australia, Germany, and the United States among others.
Here is an example of what can be displayed on your screen:
How did the attack happen?
So how does this happen? The intruder logged into their computer and installed a program that locked all of the users files. When the user logged in they could not open files and instead got a message that said they were being held for ransom and if they would pay money the intruder would give them a code which would unlock the files!
How could it have been prevented?
Could this happen to you? The answer is it depends. It depends on your usage of security measures to prevent access to your system. In this case there were several steps that could have prevented the attack. In fact, if the user would have just implemented one of our 8 points of protection, the simple process of having a robust password, this attack could not have happened! Our experience is that many users have no password or a very simple password. A recent attack on Yahoo.com found that the most popular passwords were:
The hackers that entered into the computers used a program prepopulated with many passwords like those above to guess the passwords. So, a password like “password” becomes no password at all!
The moral of the story? You need to take precautions to protect your data. Unfortunately there are many ways you can be attacked and so one step cannot provide you with a secure system. While a robust password would have prevented this problem, it would have done nothing to prevent a virus, or a crashed hard drive, or spyware.
That is the thing about protecting your system. Computer security is not an event, it is a process! You never know when or who or how you will be attacked. So, you must take ongoing steps to make your system protected and then can go about your business…..with your data intact!
Screenshot of “Cryptolocker”, the most recent and most devastating forms of ransomware.