What is ransomware?

Ransomware is on the rise and wreaking havoc; in recent months US government institutions and universities have hit the headlines after a spate of attacks costing thousands to remedy. But it’s not just the US suffering - according to a study carried out by Databarracks, a third of UK businesses have been hit by ransomware in the past year. So what is ransomware and what should you do if you’re targeted?

 

Ransomware comes in all shapes and sizes

 

There are many variations of ransomware but they all behave in a similar way; once the malware has infected a computer or network, users are denied access to their files or data until a ransom is paid. Some hackers may honour their promise to provide an access key once the money reaches their account - but unfortunately there is no guarantee and paying could result in a demand for more and more money.

 

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Should you ever pay the ransom?

After the government take-downs in the US, the FBI has been very clear in their advice - DO NOT pay the ransom. As with almost every cyber security threat, prevention is the best cure and with the right hygiene practices, most of us will be well protected from threats like ransomware. Best practices include:

 

  • Ensure you always have up to date anti-virus installed on your devices.

 

  • Regularly back up your data - daily, if you can (Google Drive, One Drive, an external hard drive are just some of the options available).

 

  • Be careful and avoid engaging with suspicious emails. Attachments and links could contain ransomware or malware designed to infect your computer.

 

  • Install updates on your devices as soon as they appear. They often contain bug fixes that help to protect you before vulnerabilities can be exploited.

 

  • Educate yourself on current threats - read blogs, follow the latest news and like DynaRisk’s social media pages (links in the footer).

 

  • Use unique passwords for every account and ensure they are complex - a minimum of 8 (preferably 12) characters, upper and lower case characters, symbols where possible and numbers.

 

However if you’re caught out, this advice may be too little too late. While it’s still incredibly important you practice these tips, they won’t help to remediate a current ransomware attack.

 

What to do in the face of a ransomware attack

While it may be tempting to pay the ransom and be rid of the threat, coughing up isn’t effective. We strongly advise against paying criminals in return for your data. It could have the opposite effect and shows that you’re willing to part with cash to recover your device. The only realistic advice is to leave it to a professional - a simple Google search will reveal ransomware removal specialists you can call for advice.

Ransomware requires a specialist as it is especially tricky to remove - there are tonnes of variations that behave in a variety of ways:

 

  • Some versions lock the screen rendering the device completely unusable.

 

  • Some versions only lock particular folders/files.

 

  • Some don't lock anything at all, instead displaying a screen demanding that you pay a ransom or they will start to lock the device.

 

In an era where data is a currency and cyber-attacks became more sophisticated, consumers and businesses alike should be proactive and consider preventive measures to safeguard their data against ransomware attacks. Find out more about protecting your family and home against cyber attacks here, or speak to a member of our team today to discuss ways to protect your business.