Ransomware attacks are increasing in frequency and in severity. Ransomware is particularly dangerous malware that locks down your PC and sometimes even destroys important files if you don’t pay up. Organizations like hospitals are being held hostage as crooks lock down their patient records and demand payments in Bitcoin electronic currency before unlocking the files.
So far in 2016, victims have included medical centers in Texas, California, Kentucky, Washington D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Indiana, Germany, and New Zealand.
Police Departments in Massachusetts and Maine, as well as the Pima County, Arizona Superior Court. School districts in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas have also faced attacks along with public utilities in Michigan.
Many desperate organizations have paid the attackers, though often far less money than they originally demand. In fact, law enforcement and security advisors are warning people not to pay, even though it seems like the easiest option. Instead of helping, you can actually make yourself an even more attractive target. These untrustworthy criminals will likely hit you again and raise the ransom price next time.
Most ransomware attacks are launched when employees mistakenly open something that looks like a legitimate document to them or are redirected to a malicious site and tricked into downloading the ransomware.
As with many things in like, the only sure cure is prevention.
1. Back up all important data regularly. If you lose a particular PC, so be it. But you’ll still have your valuable data available to restore to a new machine.
2. Keep your anti-virus software and malware protection updated. If you’re using software that has an update available, take it. Yes, it may be a pain to spend the time updating, but that’s better than not being protected against a ransomware attack.
3. Educate yourself and be cautious. Watch what you click and where you go. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to do away with attaching documents to e-mails. Instead have designated shared folders either on the network or in cloud storage where items are shared and people know to go there to look without sharing any links. If you have a business or are part of an organization, make sure everyone knows the rules for safe computing. If you must share links or attachments, have a standard protocol of what the message will say so users can tell that it’s genuine.
If your PC is attacked, it’s time to call in a professional. If you’re a home user, find a reputable computer tech. If you’re at work, immediately contact the person who handles IT. Make sure you warn everyone else in the office about what’s happened.