You may hear about them in the media. Terms like “Ransomware” and crypto attacks like “WannaCry” and “Petya.” So, what is ransomware and why is it different than other forms of malware? Let’s talk a little bit about how it works and how to protect yourself from it.

A brief history of Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that, as it’s name suggests, encrypts victim’s data until a ransom is paid. Usually this is done using difficult to trace digital currencies such as Bitcoin. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a Trojan. It is disguised as a legitimate file that the user is tricked into downloading. Or it can be opened when it arrives as an email attachment. However, one high-profile example, the “WannaCry worm”, travels automatically between computers without user interaction.

Starting from around 2012 the use of ransomware scams has grown internationally. In 2013 a ransomware known as CryptoLocker was particularly successful, procuring an estimated US $3 million before it was taken down by authorities. A later offshoot of that called CryptoWall is estimated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to have accrued over $18m by June 2015.

How to Protect yourself

  1. Keep your operating systems up to date – that means running your patches, your windows updates, things like that. Hopefully your I.T. Support does that for you setting up a schedule to have those run (as we do for our clients).
  2. Protect your network with a Firewall – and scan your e-mail to make sure that potential infected files don’t come into your network.
  3. Don’t open unknown attachments – or visit unknown links in e-mail. You’ve got to look before you click, and don’t open that stuff because it doesn’t matter how protected your network is, that is the number one way businesses still get infections.
  4. Back up your files – and make sure those backups are working. That’s the only way you can make sure that you don’t have to pay those ransoms when you have good backups and you know you can restore from them. And that also protects you from everything else. Things like lightning strikes, hardware failures, or floods. If you have backups, your business is safe.

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