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Ransomware Takes Cyber Crime to a New Low

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Ransomware Takes Cyber Crime to a New Low

April 28, 2016
By Michelle Amodio
TMCnet Contributor

Cyber crime is one of the greatest threats to business and consumer Internet use. Although users of the Internet have, for the most, part taken advantage of preventative software and antivirus programs, cyber criminals continue to find ways through the barriers that conscientious people and companies set up on their networks. The latest form of cyber crime comes in the form of ransomware, and it’s exactly what the name suggests: it’s malicious software that blocks access to systems, and the only way to gain access is to pay a ransom. It spreads very much like other malware, through standard phishing links embedded in email attachments and untrustworthy downloads.

According to the Kapersky Security Bulletin for 2015, ransomware programs were detected on 753,684 computers of unique users; 179,209 computers were targeted by encryption ransomware. Security Magazine said the number of ransomware attacks is predicted to increase in 2016. More than four million samples of ransomware were identified in the second quarter of 2015, indicating an upward trend, as in the third quarter of 2013, fewer than 1.5 million samples were analyzed. In a nutshell, it’s not going away anytime soon, so the more you know, the better you can protect yourself or your business.

Given its ability to cost organizations big bucks, ransomware is not something to mess around with. How do companies and individuals protect themselves from these types of malware?

As with most processes, it all starts with training and education. As many IT professionals can attest, simply knowing what red flags to be aware of can make a huge difference in the ability of a user to discern malicious links and software from legitimate traffic. As the methods hackers and malware creators use to trick users are constantly changing, it is important to keep users up-to-date on not only the basics of IT and email security, but also the ever-changing attack types and threat vectors, and that includes ransomware.

Companies like Microsoft (News - Alert) have developed solutions to combat ransomware. Its current product, Cryptowall is an active alerter/scanner that searches for ransomware-type activity and alerts users.  This isn’t something for consumer use, however, as it is more advanced and geared more toward businesses with a dedicated IT professional who knows the ins and outs of computer and data protection.

The best preventative measure to take is, of course, backing up files regularly. With so many options available for both on-site backup solutions and cloud-based backup solutions, there is no reason any user or company should not have a regular process in place.

Because ransomware will encrypt and hide your personal files in such a way that you do not have access to them anymore, it’s a particularly nefarious type of cyber crime. Frequent backups of your valuable data, whether it’s in the cloud or onsite can help you avoid becoming a victim of ransomware.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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