Ransomware is the name for malware that once installed on a computer, often unwittingly through clicking on links in spear phishing emails, encrypts and locks all of the victim’s data.  The cybercriminal then threatens to destroy the data unless a bounty is paid.  In 2017 we experienced two massive ransomware attacks against millions of computers around the world.  These were the infamous WannaCry and Peta ransomware attacks. Later, the city government of Atlanta becoming a victim of ransomware when some of its systems were frozen using the infamous SamSam family of malware that has been used successfully against a number of companies and municipalities. In its 2018 Verizon Data Breach Report, Verizon, which gathered data from 65 organizations in 65 countries, found that ransomware, which was only the 22nd most common malware in 2014, is now the number one most common malware used by cybercriminals.

Now a new version of ransomware called Anatova has appeared and is infecting computers around the world. It has been reported in the United States, Belgium, Germany, France, the UK and other European countries. Interestingly, it is designed not to infect computers in Russia, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq and India.  Anatova is being spread by being disguised as a free video game download.  Once downloaded Anatova displays a demand on your computer for the payment of a cryptocurrency ransom of approximately $700.  The ransom demand note indicates “Nothing personal, only business.”

While companies and government agencies are often the targets of ransomware, individuals are also targeted by this malware, as well. In fact, according to a report by the security firm Malwarebytes, ransomware attacks against consumers increased have increased dramatically in the past few years.

TIPS

Often ransomware attacks as well as most other types of malware attacks are spread through phishing emails that lure unsuspecting people into clicking on malware infected links or downloading attachments tainted with malware.  As I am constantly reminding you, never click on links or download attachments until you have confirmed that they are legitimate.  In regard to Anatova, you should avoid downloading free video games unless you have absolutely confirmed that the game is legitimate.  Free video games and free music downloads have long been methods cybercriminals have used to lure people into downloading a wide variety of malware including ransomware.

You also should update all of your electronic devices with the latest security updates and patches as soon as they become available, preferably automatically.  Many past ransomware attacks exploited vulnerabilities for which patches had already been issued. However, even if you have the most up to date security software on your computer and phone, it will not protect you from the latest zero day defect malware which is malware that exploits previously undiscovered vulnerabilities.  Security software to  recognize and prevent Anatova has not yet been developed.

As for protecting yourself specifically from ransomware, you should regularly back up all of your data on at least two different platforms, such as in the Cloud and on a portable hard drive.

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