Despite the fact that it's been around for several decades, ransomware has only recently become a popular topic in mainstream media. This is largely due to a shift in targets, with hackers now focusing their attacks on hospitals or healthcare facilities, instead of on personal computers and smartphones.1 These facilities often lack the sophisticated security protocols that are in place at other organizations of this scale, making them easier targets for cybercriminals.
No matter who the victim is, experts predict that ransomware attacks will continue to increase in the future, making it even more important to understand what you can do to steer clear of this threat today.2
WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?
Ransomware refers to malware that locks down or encrypts your computer or device, preventing you from accessing any of your data, until you pay a bitcoin ransom that is determined by the hacker.1 In 2016, nearly half of all the organizations surveyed have been affected by some type of ransomware.3 So far, in the first quarter of 2017, the number of mobile ransomware attacks has increased by 253 percent globally.4
Though larger-scale attacks have been the focus of recent news reports, this hasn't stopped the occurrence of more individualized attacks, known as "quiet malware."5 These attacks usually involve an observation period, allowing the hacker to learn more about the target's financial status before demanding ransom. Cybercriminals can also use this time to gain full access to the victim's laptop, using it to monitor keystrokes and even turn on the webcam, which is why you should be sure to keep your webcam covered.6
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
So, how can you protect yourself from potential ransomware attacks? Consider our recommendations below to keep your information safe from cybercriminals.
Have a backup. One of the most helpful things you can do is to back up your data frequently on a separate hard drive. Back it up daily if possible, so you can save as much of your data as possible, since you have no way of predicting when you may have information stolen. By securing your data, you are much less vulnerable to losing your personal information in a potential attack and can avoid having to pay a ransom to recover it.4
Use the right tools. There are device scanning tools and antivirus software that can help protect your computer from some of the potential attacks by cybercriminals. Security experts also suggest putting firewalls in place that can help to detect and potentially avoid malicious websites altogether.7
- Avoid questionable links and emails. It may be tempting, but it's important to avoid opening anything you may receive from an untrustworthy source. Hackers often use spam emails to try to infect computers with malware, including malicious attachments or links within the body of the email that contain or lead to a virus.8
Ultimately, maintaining an awareness of the threat ransomware poses is going to be the best way to protect yourself against a potential attack. Understanding the various ways that individuals and organizations are targeted, as well as what makes them vulnerable, will help you to avoid making the same types of mistakes and dealing with the stress of recovering your information. Backing up your data, downloading some type of antivirus software and avoiding any type suspicious-looking content can help keep you from becoming another ransomware statistic.
Still feel unsafe in the cyberspace? Steer clear of cybercriminals by taking a few extra precautions to help protect your information.
1 Zetter, K. (March 2016). Why Hospitals Are the Perfect Targets for Ransomware. Retrieved on May 10, 2017, from wired.com/2016/03/ransomware-why-hospitals-are-the-perfect-targets/
2 Sneed, A. (March 2016). The Most Vulnerable Ransomware Targets Are the Institutions We Rely On Most. Retrieved on May 10, 2017, from scientificamerican.com/article/the-most-vulnerable-ransomware-targets-are-the-institutions-we-rely-on-most/
3 Crowe, J. (August 2016). Ransomware by the Numbers: Must-Know Ransomware Statistics 2016. Retrieved on May 22, 2017, from blog.barkly.com/ransomware-statistics-2016
4 DeNisco, A. (May 2017). Report: Mobile ransomware attacks 'soared' in 2017, up 250% in Q1. Retrieved on May 22, 2017, from techrepublic.com/article/report-mobile-ransomware-attacks-soared-in-2017-up-250-in-q1/
5 DeNisco, A. (March 2017). Report: Ransomware attacks grew 600% in 2016, costing businesses $1B. Retrieved on May 10, 2017, from techrepublic.com/article/report-ransomware-attacks-grew-600-in-2016-costing-businesses-1b/
6 Wadell, K. (January 2016). The Extortionist in the Fridge. Retrieved on May 10, 2017, from theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/the-extortionist-in-the-fridge/422742/
7 Hackett, R. and Teregulova, A. (March 2017). How to Protect Yourself From Ransomware. Retrieved on May 11, 2017, from fortune.com/2017/03/13/ransomware-protection-tips/
8 Zetter, K. (May 2016). 4 Ways to Protect Against the Very Real Threat of Ransomware. Retrieved on May 10, 2017, from wired.com/2016/05/4-ways-protect-ransomware-youre-target/