3 Things You Need to Know about Ransomware, the Malware That Kidnaps Your Data
Don’t click on links. Change your e-mail password. Backup your data to the cloud and off-site storage. As if there weren’t enough things to worry about, you should add “protect your computer network from ransomware” and “save the company thousands of dollars by taking extra safety precautions” to the list.
Ransomware, this species of malicious viruses, represents one of the most unpleasant and dangerous threats, not only to regular users but also to companies or even government organizations.
Ransomware is the collective name for programs and viruses that once they find their way into your computer, they lock your device or encrypt your documents and files and automatically issue a ransom for the rescue. In fact, there are two types of ransomware, which act differently and present different types of scenarios: cryptors and blockers.
While blockers perform a less severe abnormality by only blocking the device and making it useless, cryptors are more serious devils. They usually get into your files and encrypt them, making them inaccessible. Most of the times, the only way to recover the data is paying the ransom.
Ransomware programs are the most widespread on Windows operating systems, as this is the most popular choice worldwide. That doesn’t mean that other operating systems have been bypassed. Android-based devices, Linux servers, and even Apple systems have also been targeted by new ransomware applications, and it is very likely that smart TVs might become the next in line.
Hackers have already determined the exact numbers of infected machines and data volumes so ransoms are not left to luck. In the business world, there is no ransom less than $2000.
Ransoms are usually paid in bitcoins – the cryptocurrency which cannot be forged and tracked. This way, nobody can find the cyber criminals that kidnapped your data.
The unfortunate news is that there is little to no possibility of recovering your data without paying the ransom. The encrypting algorithm used by cryptors is very resistant and without a decryption key, the recovery can even take years. In very lucky situations, ransomware programs can have vulnerabilities but only if hackers make mistakes. In these situations, law enforcement together with security companies can disrupt the ransomware activities and manage to obtain the decryption keys. Unfortunately, these cases are very few, that is why the only thing that can save you from losing money to online criminals is implementing constant backup.
Ransomware viruses are not “caught” only when people search for porn or navigate on obscure websites. In fact, the most common way to get a ransomware application infiltrated in your computer is through emails. You receive an apparently important email, open an attachment, and poof, your PC is infected. Other opportunities for virus penetration are from the installation of unknown plugins or even through other malware programs. And if the program has reached a network which has more computers linked to it, there are rare cases in which the virus can self-propagate and infect the other devices as well.
The safest solution in protecting all your devices from ransomware, whether they are computers, smartphones or tablets, is to have antivirus programs installed and backup software running. Make sure to keep the software up to date. Also, avoid installing unnecessary plugins and invest in licensed programs that won’t easily crack. Make carefully analyzing your emails and the attachments you receive a routine, no matter if the sender is known or unknown. Enable your Windows to show extensions to increase your security and observe any weird notations, such as name.txt.exe.
Most importantly, always backup your files. It is the only safety process you can perform that can ensure that you’ll have access to your files no matter the situation.
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