The threat of ransomware attack is growing but do you know what is ransomware and how you can protect yourself from this growing threat?
If you’ve been following the news on malware scams and hacks from across the world, chances are that you might have come across the term ‘ransomware’. It’s deemed as the biggest threat to organizational data in the world today, and it poses a challenge that very few organizations can master. So, what is ransomware?
Is it the latest buzzword in the world of malware or is it really worth the hype? You’re in good luck if you haven’t read much about this latest threat in the computing world. This is because we have summarized all you need to know about the threat itself and what you should do to safeguard your interests.
The growing implications and the hype around ransomware lead us all to one question in general— what is ransomware? By definition, ransomware is a complicated malware that blocks the victim’s access to all the files that they had previously stored in their system. After the attack takes place, the said victim has no access to their files anymore. In addition, the only plausible way left for them to get their priceless data back is by paying a specified amount of money to the attacking party.
This malware has spread like wildfire, and it is a common tool for hackers to manipulate users and organizations into paying money. A malware containing ransomware could be unfolding anywhere across the world right now—near you, in your neighborhood, your office building and what not. Someone might be clicking open a link that contains a malicious email without being aware of what consequences it can have. Once they do, they will immediately be contacted by the hackers through a message displayed on their screen. This will be asking for money—usually in the form of cryptocurrencies.
Types and Attributes of Ransomware
Ransomware is usually grouped into two distinctive types. These types are self-explanatory and form the basis of almost all ransomware attacks.
Such a type locks the user files, making it impossible to access data. The victims of such ransomware attacks are unable to access their files because the files are locked away and can’t be seen.
These ransomware attacks tend to encrypt all the data and files present on your system. They achieve this encryption through the use of advanced encryption algorithms and methods. Once the files are encrypted, they are almost inaccessible. The key for decryption will only be provided if you pay the specified amount asked for by the attackers.
Besides these two distinctive types, ransomware also carries several distinctive attributes. These attributes make them different from other malware tools. Understanding these attributes will further help in the categorization of ransomware as different from other malware.
Ransomware comes with the ability to encrypt almost all kinds of files online. This gives these attacks an edge that other malware does not possess. Due to its unique attacking method, ransomware can encrypt almost all kinds of files within your computer in one go. This includes videos, audios, pictures, and all other formats. Their ability to encrypt such a variety of files and formats makes ransomware even more threatening and dangerous than other malware.
The encryption is often too hard for you to break on your own. No matter how hard you try, you will either require expert help or a ransomware removal software to generate an idea of what is going on.
Once your system(s) gets attacked by a ransomware attack, your screen will display a message or an image on it. The message will notify you of the attack, and the money you’d be required to pay for the proper restoration of all data.
All computers connected to the same local network are susceptible to a ransomware attack, even if one of them gets the malware. Ransomware spreads like fire in computers connected to the same local network and locks data across all these systems.
More often than not, there is a time limit on the on-screen notification. The time limit is meant to threaten you and spur you into action. If the money isn’t paid within the time limit, attackers either increase the ransom amount or scrape off the data that is encrypted.
How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack?
Having defined ransomware attacks and the attributes that they usually carry, we will now get to the second-most important part of this article, which is to mention all possible methods of ransomware prevention.
Store Files in a Known, Good Backup
It is imperative to store all of your data in a known backup so that you can restore all of it in the event of a ransomware attack. Having data backup reduces the extent of damage through a ransomware attack and leaves you less vulnerable.
Train your Workers
If you’re an organization that is worried about the threat of ransomware, then you should best train all your employees. Connected to the same local network ransomware that enters through one of the computers can make its way across the whole organization.
Therefore, hold a training session where you give your employees important skills on what to do and what not to do online. Tell them to be extra careful while opening links sent to them through email and not give important personal data over the phone or email to someone.
Most malware in general, ransomware in specific, are found to come through emails. So, in a bid to safeguard your data and your interests, you can apply content scanning and filtering methods for your emails. These scanning and filtering software programs scan and filter all emails and check them for known threats or suspicious patches. Even emails with suspicious attachment types are analyzed.
Keep System Software and Firewall Up to Date
Finally, we cannot emphasize how important it is to keep your system software and firewall up to date at all times. If you’re using an antivirus system, make sure it is from a reliable company. While ransomware can become a really big hassle, you can prevent it from happening in the first place by going through this article and learning the tricks of the trade.