The newest cybercrime statistics are almost beyond belief. They show that it is almost a certainty that you or your company will become a victim of ransomware, sooner rather than later. According to the US Government’s ransomware taskforce, you should urgently take protective steps or risk losing your critical information and suffering through an extensive device rehabilitation process.
A TrendMicro report revealed that 89% of electricity, oil & gas, and manufacturing firms have experienced cyber-attacks impacting production and energy supply over the past 12 months.
● 84% have suffered one or more cyberattacks
● 76% of companies expected another breach within the next year,
● 35% of organizations experienced 7 or more successful network attacks a year
No computer is safe, as there are ransomware versions for Mac, Linux, and mobile phones.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your computer and locks you out of your computer files or device, then demands a payment to restore access. Some types can be used to scare you into calling phone numbers or lock your screen to freeze you out of your PC, but the worst type is encrypting ransomware, which could block access to your files or device forever unless you pay a ransom.
A ransomware infection can mean that you lose your files forever, and in the worst cases, you may even lose your device. Even if you pay the ransom, cybercriminals increasingly neglect to decrypt and restore your files afterward.
Companies of all sizes could suffer a catastrophic loss of business for the duration of the infection when operations come to a halt. To add insult to injury, attackers nowadays often steal company and private data before they wipe or lock the files. This double extortion model is aimed at increasing their ransom amounts by threatening to leak the sensitive data they harvested from the computers they encrypted.
And then there is the cost of remediating useless devices, as happened to Maersk’s re-installation of 45,000 computers and 4000 servers.
Since 2019, ransomware gangs have increasingly infiltrated hospitals, medical facilities, and also utility companies, power grids, and oil pipelines.
The enormous increase in attacks on large companies, organizations, utilities, or government agencies has caused the US government to elevate investigations of ransomware attacks to a similar priority as terrorism.
Criminals use social engineering manipulation to trick people into trusting emails or links. They sometimes mimic legitimate companies or use the information available on the internet to impersonate friends or service providers.
They get access when you open an infected document or click on a malicious link from spam or phishing emails. And contrary to popular opinion, PDFs can be malware carriers, just like Word or Excel documents.
Browsing the internet without antivirus or a multifunction VPN can initiate a malicious download from criminal servers without you even clicking on an advert or suspicious link. This is known as a drive-by download.
If you are very lucky, there may be a decryptor for your computer’s specific infection, but you risk encrypting your files further if you use the wrong version. Ransomware remediation software may be able to decrypt certain types of ransomware, but in most cases, you cannot recover your data.
According to industry experts and the FBI, you should never pay the ransom because there is no guarantee you will get your files back.
Security experts agree that the best way to protect from ransomware is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
● Install security software with real-time protection against ransomware.
● Always update your computer and antivirus software as soon as one becomes available to protect against zero-day exploits and vulnerabilities.
● Don’t ever usepublic Wi-Fi networks without protection. They are notorious Cyber Crime hot spots for data theft and Man-in-the-Middle attacks.
● Secure your network and every device on your network with a VPN that encrypts your internet traffic and routes it via a safe corridor. A VPN is one of the best ways to protect your device against drive-by downloads.
● Disable external and internal hyperlinks in your email client.
● Don’t rely solely on local computers or devices for collaborative work. Hybrid Cloud solutions provide businesses continuity and safe file sharing for Work-From-Home employees – especially for smaller businesses without a dedicated IT department. Cloud solutions also include Cloud Disaster Recovery (DR) services in case of a ransomware attack.
● Distribute local backups of your important data files and documents on USBs or an external hard drive where you can save new or updated files. Remove the backup drive after backing up physically, or it could also become infected.
● If you don’t use a Hybrid Cloud solution for your day-to-day operations, it’s wise to grit your teeth and use your private cloud storage to back up your backups. It’s the last resort if your computers and backup drives become infected.
● Read the news and stay informed. Continuously guard against new tricks, scams, and social engineering. If something feels a little ‘off’, it probably is!
● Use multi-factor authentication for all your accounts, and change your passwords regularly.
Ransomware has become such an important attack vector that hacker gangs have even adopted a type of SaaS model to provide ransomware to other cybercriminals, calling it RaaS (Ransomware-as-a-Service).
It seems we’d better get used to the fact that we are under siege and start taking action to protect ourselves.