Recent research by FBI revealed that about one billion dollars was paid to the cyber criminals as a ransom in 2016. It is a lot of money compare to 24 million dollars ransomware payments in 2015. What’s even worse, these numbers are expected only to grow this year.
The prime target of cyber criminals now is cloud. This could cost millions and millions of dollars to the users all around the world.
What is ransomware? It’s a kind of virus that infects computers and locks all important files that are stored on the device. In order to retrieve them, users are forced to pay the ransom. Usually it is in Bitcoins. While cyber security experts work to develop strong defence against ransomware and create decryption tools to unlock files, sometimes the only available option is to pay the ransom.
It’s not only everyday average users that are suffering from ransomware – businesses and various organisations fall for this virus too. And while average ransom amount for users in 2016 was $679 ($295 in 2015), organisations are paying much more – thousands of dollars.
So why this awful type of virus is such a big thing now and is expected to grow this year? Well, the main thing is increased number of cyber criminals. Ready to go ransomware software can be purchased and that basically means that completely anyone can get it and start a career of hacker. All it takes is basic computer skills and some money to purchase the kit, thus lots of people get tempted to make easy money by robbing other users online.
In addition to that, more advanced ransomware is being developed. It’s not only locking all files, but also threatening victims with new features. For instance, ransomware can slowly delete one file after another one in order to push you to make the ransom payment. It can also threaten users to post some files publicly online, such as personal photos or videos.
Not only computer users should be afraid of ransomware. It’s now possible that ransom will infect your mobile device (smartphone, tablet) or even TV because it is capable to operate on Android operating system.
Ransomware is most active in North America – United States and Canada, to be more specific. Even the main target of hackers are individual users (since they have less security instruments), corporations and organisations can be attacked as well. We saw how police departments, education organisations, hospitals, and even banks suffers from ransomware. One of the most notorious case was recorded back in February, 2016, when Medical Center located in Hollywood paid almost 17 thousands of dollars of ransom to retrieve data stored on hospital’s computer network.
There are two reasons why businesses are more attractive targets for cyber criminals – files on their systems are very important to them and they have enough money to pay big ransoms. For the same reasons it’s expected that ransomware attacks against businesses will rise too.
Every computer or other device with Android operating system that connects to the Internet is at risk of being infected with ransomware. So if you think that is not going to happen to you – think again.
How to protect from ransomware
First of all, you should know how this kind of virus is distributed. The answer is clear – via email. If you open a link from email that was in a spam folder, there is a risk that ransomware will sneak into your system. Statistics are shocking – in 2016 about 40 percent of spam emails had ransomware inside of it. And these numbers continue to rise. So avoiding spam section on your inbox is a pretty good idea.
It’s always wise to have a plan B. In this case – make a backup of your data. You don’t need to backup every single file that you have on your system, but back up of most important data, such as family photos or important documents. Backup should be stored in a safe place, such as external hard drive. Cloud is also an option in this case.
Don’t act casual with updates. Even though they might take some time of your day, it’s a thing that has to be done in order to stay safe. Update your operating system, software that you use and applications on mobile devices. Programs that are no longer used should be removed from your system. Finally, disable macros. Document macros can be used to spread ransomware.