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Ransomware: A Look at Today’s Worst Cyberthreat

b2ap3_thumbnail_get_your_encryption_key_400.jpgThere are many types of malware out there, but few are as scary as ransomware. Imagine being struck by a threat that instantaneously locks down your files and keeps you from accessing them until you pay a certain amount of money. If your business is targeted by ransomware, would you be able to protect it from dragging your operations into a bitter pit of despair?

Ransomware is a malicious threat that has the potential to end your company’s operations by eliminating access to critical files. It works by encrypting the files located on your PC, and the only way to get the decryption key is to pay the hackers who infected your computer. In 2015 alone, ransomware cost users over $325 million, which makes it an exceptionally lucrative venture for hackers. Ransomware generally worms its way into your PC through infected email attachments disguised as invoices or statements (i.e. phishing attacks), which means that inexperienced users might accidentally fall for the trick and unknowingly expose their PC to this threat.

Many types of ransomware will try to coerce money out of users through fear. For example, one variant of ransomware will pose as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which might claim that the user illegally downloaded copyrighted material or is in possession of incriminating pornography. Others might claim to be from local law enforcement, demanding that a fine be paid in return your files. Some don’t even bother trying to pose as other parties, and instead will simply make a demand that’s quite difficult to resist: either you pay up, or your files are gone for good.

The most well-known type of ransomware these days is Cryptolocker, which locks down the files on a user’s PC and demands a ransom. This ransom is usually to be paid in Bitcoin through the anonymous web browser, Tor, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to trace the hackers’ activity back to them. A more recent version of Cryptolocker, Cryptowall, is even more dangerous for businesses, as it allows infected PCs to spread the ransomware throughout the network they’re connected to. This means that all it takes is for one system to get infected for your entire network to be encrypted and held hostage by hackers. This isn’t a situation you want to be in.

If your files are backed up somewhere, you should be able to eliminate the ransomware by restoring your backup. If your files aren’t backed up, however, you might feel like there’s no choice but to give in. The important thing to remember about ransomware is that you shouldn’t pay the ransom under any circumstances. In the worst case scenario, you could pay the ransom and the encryption key might not work, putting you at a severe disadvantage. This would be no skin of the hacker’s back, after all, they got your money. If you’re ever infected by ransomware, it’s important that you immediately disconnect your PC from the Internet and any network it’s connected to, and to then contact trusted technology professionals. You do have options, and we want to make sure that we’ve tried everything we can to get your files back without giving in to hackers’ demands.

Of course, the best way to keep your systems safe is to make sure that ransomware doesn’t infect your PC in the first place. A quality spam blocking solution can keep potential phishing attacks that harbor ransomware-filled attachments out of your inbox and away from your end users. In general, it’s good to have security measures put in place to minimize the possibility of threats and user errors. Therefore, it’s important that you educate your staff on email best practices, like avoiding phishing scams. Finally, a data backup solution can help save you from the worst-case scenario, in the event you do get infected.

CTN can help your business take the fight to ransomware. To learn more, give us a call at (610) 828-5500.

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