Ransomware is a type of malware that gets unwittingly downloaded on to a company’s, institution’s, government agency’s 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.
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. According to the United States Justice Department, ransomware attacks quadrupled last year to more than 4,000 per day. As big a problem as ransomware was last year, I predict it will be much worse in 2017.
New strains of ransomware are constantly being developed and one of the more interesting ones to appear recently is the Star Trek themed ransomware called Kirk ransomware referring to Captain James T. Kirk of the original Star Trek television show. When the Kirk ransomware attacks your computer it fills your screen with a ransomware demand with the images of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in the background. The ransom is demanded in the form of a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin called Monero. The ransom generally is valued at about a thousand dollars in Monero currency. If the victim agrees to pay the ransom, a decryption tool is provided entitled Spock.
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.