Most firms and individuals today rely on computers and smart devices for managing, storing, and securing all sorts of data, which most of them are data that we can’t afford to lose. So imagine logging on to your computer one day when all of a sudden, you lose access to all your precious data – videos, photos, documents, even personal and banking information. Your data is still there, but you can’t access anything for some reason. It seems like they’re encrypted or something. Then there’s this pop-up window that tells you that if you want to get your data back, you must pay this certain amount. Cyber attackers do this through what we call ransomware.
Ransomware is a type of malware or malicious software that “datanaps” your data in exchange for a ransom. Yes, you read it right, it’s like kidnapping but instead of abducting a person for money, they abduct your data. Ransomware attacks have been there for quite a while. The first known ransomware attack happened in 1989 known as the AIDS Trojan or PC Cyborg. It was initiated by Dr. Joseph Popp, an AIDS researcher who sent 20,000 disks to other AIDS researchers across the globe. The disk contains a program used to analyze AIDS patients’ information but also installs a malware that replaces the AUTOEXEC.BAT file and would count the number of times the PC was booted up. Upon reaching the 90th boot-up, the malware will encrypt all the data in the computer’s drive C, making them inaccessible. After which an alert will show up asking the owner to pay the amount of $189 to recover all the encrypted data.
It’s been 3 decades since the first known ransomware yet the principle behind it remains the same. All the attacker has to do is look for a way to install the ransomware to the target system and that’s it. It’s just a matter of time for them to launch their attack.
How to keep your system safe ransomware attacks?
Prevention is always better than cure. Just like most malware, ransomware won’t pose any threat as long as it won’t get into your system. Knowing how attackers infect their targets is your first step to preventing your data to be kidnapped. The following are some of the ways you can do to protect your data:
- Beware of phishing. Phishing is a common trick used by cyber-attackers. They get critical information from their targets or trick them to download and install the ransomware by sending emails disguised to have come from legitimate sources. Attackers clone legit websites tricking their target to input their login information or click on links containing the ransomware. The most common websites that attackers clone to phish from their targets includes PayPal, Facebook, and even Netflix. To avoid phishing you should always check the spelling of the URLs in the email links before clicking them. They may be able to clone the website but not it’s URL. For example, Facebook’s URL is www.facebook.com. Malicious links may go like this, www.face.book.com.
- Be careful with flash drives. Malware is also distributed via infected flash drives. If a flash drive is being used with multiple computers, the chance of it being infected is also pretty high. Always scan a flash drive before using it.
- Use an antimalware program. Since ransomware is malware, a good antimalware program should keep your system safe. Of course, you have to regularly scan your system. Also, make sure that your virus and malware definitions are up to date.
- Nothing beats a backup. Always backup your data, especially the critical ones. In case you get infected by ransomware, you won’t worry about losing your files.
- Use whitelisting programs. Whitelisting is the opposite of blacklisting. In blacklisting, you block or restrict certain files, programs, or websites that you find malicious. On the other hand, whitelisting let’s you create a list of sites or files that you grant system privileges while blocking all that are not whitelisted.
- Avoid pirated software. Pirated software mostly has malware installed with them. Aside from being illegal, using them puts your entire system in danger. Cyber attackers use pirated software to spread malware. Get your software from legitimate sources.
- Hire IT security experts. Data security experts like TrinSecurity specializes in keeping your system safe from all forms of cyber-attacks and not just ransomware. You can continue doing your work without worrying about your data getting locked up.
Securing your data is now as important as securing our business. Don’t let your guard down. Be vigilant. Think before you click. Protect your data. Contact TrinSecurity now.