Ransomware, as regular readers of Scamicide know, is a type of malware that gets unwittingly downloaded on to a company’s, institution’s, government agency or individual person’s computer, which when downloaded encrypts the data of the victim. The victim is then told to either pay a ransom, generally in bitcoins within a short period of time, or the hacker will destroy the data.
The latest public victim of ransomware is the Los Angeles Valley Community College District which recently paid a $28,000 bitcoin ransom after ransomware locked the campus’ computer network along with its email and voicemail systems. After paying the ransom, the code was delivered to the school enabling them to regain their files and control over their email and voicemail systems.
Ransomware has become one of the most common and effective cybercrimes in the last year, successfully targeting individuals and a wide range of companies including law firms, accounting firms and even police departments. As big a problem as ransomware was last year, I predict it will be much worse in 2017.
The key to not becoming a victim of a ransomware attack is to prevent it in the first place. Generally, the malware is installed unwittingly by victims when they are lured through phishing and spear phishing emails to click on links infected with the malware. Never click on links in emails or text messages regardless of how legitimate they may appear until you have verified that it is legitimate. You should also install anti-phishing software.
It is also important to not only have anti-malware software installed on all of your electronic devices, but to make sure that you update the security software with the latest security patches and updates. Many victims of ransomware have fallen victim to strains of ransomware for which there are already security software available to thwart it. Finally, always back up your computer’s data daily, preferably in two different ways in order to protect your data in the event you do become a victim of ransomware.