One of the latest types of cyberattacks to hit the web is a relatively new phenomenon known as Ransomware. Just recently, a local school district was affected by this new threat demanding the district to potentially pay $125,000.
Ransomware is a kind of malware that locks users out of their own files and networks by encrypting them with a secret code only the hacker knows. The hacker then demands a cash payment in order for the files to be unlocked, hence performing a type of tech kidnapping of your personal or business data. All files are completely inaccessible or unreadable during such an attack until the payment is made. Generally the perpetrator will demand all cash to be converted to Bitcoin, a completely untraceable and anonymous form of internet currency commonly used on the Deep Web for purchasing illegal goods or services. This allows the person demanding the ransom to escape undetected and avoid any legal consequences. Although the hacker will typically promise to return access once a payment is made, there is no guarantee that your files will be restored. Furthermore, the hacker could potentially make a copy of all your data to sell to other criminals for more money.
So while this all sounds pretty horrible, there is some hope. Ours nerds recommend always having a disaster recovery plan with recent backups of all your data. Hard drive imaging can be used to restore your computer and network to a pre-ransomware state granted you have a backup. After restoring your computer (or your entire network), make sure to change all your passwords to prevent any more malicious activity. Having a good network firewall should also be used to prevent a hacker from accessing your network in the first place.
Common sense can also go a long way towards preventing a ransomware attack. Make sure to never open suspicious email attachments or click on any oddly formatted links. Ransomware gains access by tricking the user into allowing a malicious program to run in the first place, so make sure to never open untrusted executables (.exe files). Keeping up to date with your Operating System patches and updating your virus protection doesn’t hurt either, but often ransomware software can slip through the cracks and be disguised as the innocuous software you use every day. If someone emails you and asks for you to install some shady software you should steer clear to avoid potential risk. So be smart about what you install, make sure you have frequent backups of all your data, and keep your virus software up to date. With ransomware, often proper prevention is the best cure to potentially falling victim.