Cyber attackers have gotten bolder in their hacks and scams, but a recent wave of cyberattacks has them beat: infecting someone’s computer and then requiring a ransom for its release.
The U.S. House of Representatives has a tech service desk that is encouraging people to be cautious of “ransomware.” Ransomware is a hack that encrypts users’ files and then contacts the individual or group to pay a ransom so the attacker will provide the code to unscramble the new mess of the computer.
Since organizations and businesses will not survive long without all their data, the only option seems to be to pay the ransom. Early this year, a hospital located in Hollywood, California, was hacked. All their important files were encrypted. The hospital ended up paying $17,000 to restore the data. The hospital waited three weeks to make the payment, but with all of their crucial computer programs inaccessible, they really had little choice but to pay up. Once they did, the cyber attackers restored its system.
How Ransomware Attacks
Many of the ransomware attacks have been orchestrated a cyber attacker sending someone a .js or zip file. The cyber attacker will send it through a seemingly-known email address. Once downloaded, the file makes it impossible to access information. The cyber attackers might encrypt files or convert files to an unreadable state.
Should I Be Worried About Ransomware?
The government is very concerned about ransomware. In fact, since third-party email providers are typical nesting grounds for ransomware attackers, the House of Representatives has blocked Yahoo Mail until further notice. But the U.S. government is not the only victim.
A small Oregon church was another victim of ransomware. The ransomware converted all PowerPoint presentations to MP3s, making them so they could not be opened. The church had to pay $500 in bitcoin as a ransom to receive the decryption key. Pretty much anyone that connects to the internet can become a victim of ransomware.
Staying Ahead of a Ransomware Attack
One of the best ways to prevent become a major victim is to keep everything backed up on an external hard drive. That way if everything gets infected with ransomware, you can restore the device to its factory settings and still have access to your files, without having to pay the ransom. Using the cloud is another smart option, because everything saved to the cloud will be relatively safe from ransomware attacks. And if your computer goes under, everything saved to the cloud will still remain intact.
The FBI put out a warning late last month saying “If the first three months of this year are any indication, the number of ransomware incidents—and the ensuing damage they cause—will grow even more in 2016 if individuals and organizations don’t prepare for these attacks in advance.” So be smart and be prepared for a ransomware attack. Backup your files, save to the cloud, and be cautious of everything you do while on the internet.