As if we didn’t have enough threats on our plate to deal with. Did you know in 2018, ransomware attacks worldwide grew by 380%? There are several reasons why there has been such a whopping increase, for instance, Social distancing may be affecting how we work, but it also might be creating an increase in ransomware attacks.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware, as its name suggests, is malware, or malicious software, that is introduced into a device, gains control of the data stored therein, and holds it hostage either by blocking or encrypting files or by threatening a leak or deletion unless a ransom is paid.
History of Ransomware
The first reported instances of ransomware attacks date back to 1989 and they were levied against the healthcare industry – which remains the most often targeted industry for ransomware attacks.
Dr. Joseph Popp, a researcher into the AIDS pandemic, was formally charged with the attack, though he was subsequently deemed mentally unfit to serve trial. He allegedly distributed over 20,000 floppy discs to other AIDS researchers, claiming the disk contained a questionnaire that allowed researchers to determine the level of risk a person had of contracting AIDS.
The floppy discs contained malware that stayed dormant in the device until it was started for the 90th time. Then the malware would seize control of the device and demand an initial payment of $189 then, the second payment of $378 dollars to be rid of the malware.
Famous Cases of Ransomware Attacks
In the winter of 2013, CryptoLocker infected over 250,000 devices. Its developer, Evgeniy Bogacjev, remains the FBI’s most wanted cybercriminal. They are currently offering a $3 million bounty for his capture.
Though CryptoLocker had a relatively short run, it has spawned a number of imitators, the most infamous being CryptoWall who in just two short years managed to extort over $20 million from its victims.
The ‘Ransomware as a Service’ Scheme
As technology continues to evolve and developers continue to get more and more creative, so do cybercriminals.
One of the largest and more innovative cybercriminal rings is Cerber. The developers of Cerber began licensing the use of their malware in the dark web, providing would-be criminals with the tools they need to run their cyber attack in exchange for a cut of the profits.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
In order for malware to be introduced onto your device, it requires an action of some kind on your part. This usually consists of simply clicking on a link in an email, opening a suspicious attachment, or downloading a file from an infected site.
In order to decrease your chances of ever falling victim to a ransomware attack, you should:
- Avoiding clicking on links of spam emails – Resist the temptation of going down a spam rabbit hole. It might not be so easy to climb back out.
- Only open email attachments sent from trusted accounts – You should know the sender who is sending you an attachment, otherwise, the risk of infection is just too great. Additionally, never open an attachment that asks you to enable macros in order to be viewed. Doing so will give the malicious software control over your entire device.
- Only download from trusted sites – If you’re unsure, look in the search bar to see if the site uses ‘HTTPS (which is secured) or ‘HTTP (which is unsecured).
- Update your software and operating software regularly – Benefit from developers’ most recent security innovations by ensuring that your software and operating system are up to date.
While new security measures are being developed on a daily basis, so are countermeasures designed to circumvent those security features. Stay up to date on software protection and be vigilant as to what sites and what emails you engage with.
By increasing awareness and vigilance, there’s still a chance we can make 2021 a poor year for cybercriminals.