You arrive at work, boot up your laptop and desktop. Instead of your usual screen, however, there is a hostile message. â€œThis operating system has been locked for security reasonsâ€ or â€œYou have browsed illicit material and must pay a fine.â€ Usually the group who has locked your computer demands money or they will destroy all of your business and/or personal data. Ransomware encrypts all or most of the files on an infected device or network, using mostly Advanced Encryption Standard.This is every business owner’s nightmare. This is the crux of ransomware.
How Common is Ransomware?
After first emerging in Russia and Eastern Europe in 2009, ransomware has spread to Western Europe, the US and many other countries, causing high infection rates and a great deal of frustration for consumers. In one monthly study by Symantec, 68,000 computers were infected: the equivalent of 5,700 every day! Of the computers infected about 2.9 percent of compromised users paid out. This may not seem like a large amount but it adds up quickly and fairly easily for the criminals. Techniques have become more and more sophisticated with code built into ransomware programs to tailor messages to the right language and local law enforcement logo, for example.
Tips for Dealing with the Challenges of Ransomware
Even if a company does pay the ransom, the cybercriminals often do not restore functionality to the system thus meaning the business has lost the money and the data in one-fell-swoop. The only reliable way to restore functionality is to remove the malware.
- Have security software installed and, most importantly, up to date with a current subscription. Remember with the thousands of new malware variants running every day, having a set of old virus definitions is almost as bad as having no protection.
- Make sure all the software on your system is up to date. This includes the operating system, the browser and all of the plug-ins that a modern browser typically uses. One of the most common infection vectors is a malicious exploit that leverages a software vulnerability. Keeping software up to date helps minimize the likelihood that your system has an exposed vulnerability on it.
- Make sure you are leveraging the full set of protection features delivered in your security product.
- Do not pay the ransom! Paying the ransom may seem like a realistic response, but it is only encouraging and funding these attackers. Even if the ransom were paid, what guarantees do you have that you will actually regain access to your files?