Ransomware is something that first came to light around 2013 with a strain of Malware called Cryptolocker although there are now a variety of other strains out there such as Cryptowall and CryptoDefense that are a constant pain to businesses and consumers alike.
The reason that it is called ransomware is because this malware encrypts the files saved on a hard drive using an unbreakable key, basically holding them hostage.
The files are only unlocked once a ransom is paid, usually by an online currency such as Bitcoin.
Ransomware attacks do not only target individual users but also businesses, even hospitals have been forced to pay up.
Ransomware is usually delivered by email and is a method that is used by opportunists.
They are usually part of mass random emails with the intention is to infect as many computers as possible so attackers increase their chances of getting a ransom.
So how do you avoid being a victim?
The most obvious way is to avoid opening any links via email, SMS or instant message that you are unsure about.
You should also consider backing up your data on a regular basis.
Backups are the most reliable way of recovering infected files. Is you have the information stored elsewhere then effect of files getting blocked on encrypted is greatly reduced. It should be stressed that backups should be stored in an offline environment to reduce the threat even further.
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A third method is to make sure you have anti-virus software installed across all your devices, including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets.
As business are often the target of ransomware attacks, make sure all employee devices have adequate anti virus protection and that the business uses secure servers and proper firewalls.
Avoid using counterfeit software or operating systems – something which is commonplace in Thailand – and also consider restricting or limiting your employee’s access to certain websites that are not business related.
There may be nothing malicious but it can still leave you needlessly exposed. Infections can also be accidentally or otherwise be brought in via removable media so try to restrict what is brought into your company on these mediums.
One of the biggest problems that most people have with ransomware is that you are dealing with criminals and there is no guarantee that you will get the data back, even if you do pay the ransom.
Typically, like many others scammers the criminals will return to those who have paid them in the past so all that payment achieves is confirming that you are a good target.
Try to restrict the amount of sensitive data that you have on your computer. The more sensitive the information is, the greater the ransom that will be demanded so always bear this in mind.
Finally, recovering data can usually be done even using free software from firms such as Kaspersky.
The biggest problem can be the time lost and inconvenience above any direct financial loss.