In 2015 Alina Simone’s account published in the New York Times was the perhaps the first time that many non IT tech people had heard the term “Ransomware”. It presented a new and very personal threat do the data we all hold electronically that are of a deeply personal data: family photos, letters to relatives, tax and financial records, and beloved music and movies, when was the last time you looked at a photo album or real pictures? As our lives become ever more digital this method of attack came as a horrible unexpected attack to many.
A year down the line and the term Ransomware is all over the media with almost daily reports of new attacks affecting Businesses, Local Government and Home Users. Why are the attacks on the rise? It’s very simple: Money.
Before the emergence of ransomware, criminals mainly used (and still use) malware to take control of machines. Malicious code harvested user names, passwords, and credit card numbers. It might have also used infected PCs in a botnet for sending spam or launching attacks that shut down major websites, usually as a decoy while hackers broke in elsewhere.
For Criminals, Ransomware Is Lucrative
Ransomware cuts out the digital middlemen. Rather than collect credit card details that must then be sold on the dark web for a few cents to a few dollars, ransomware demands money directly from the victims. While the amount varies, it tends to be few hundred pounds for home users. And this is the key for home users, if all your family photos and memories held on your computer were being held hostage, would you pay to get them back? Many have.
Yet these small sums are taking a heavy toll. The exact number of ransomware attacks is hard to gauge, as many go unreported. But according to market research and IT security vendors they are rising fast. Late last year, the Cyber Threat Alliance stated that a single piece of ransomware, CrytopWall v3, resulted in an estimated $325 million in damages worldwide over the course of its lifetime. And as far back as June 2014, the FBI issued a report saying CryptoLocker swindled more than $27 million from users over a two-month period.
Criminals have subverted online adverts of venerable media organizations, such as the BBC and NYT, turning their websites into potential sources of drive-by ransomware.
The Right Protection Saves Money
This is why protection is essential, especially for individual users, most of whom lack the expertise and resources of business IT departments
We do not recommend paying. There is no guarantee criminals will release the files. They may also leave a piece of malicious code behind that allows them to strike again. It is better to immediately power your computer down and call a computer company to arrange for the PC to be checked.
Above all, home users must invest in appropriate protection and most importantly regularly backup that much treasured data using more than one method, the cost for a couple of external hard disks and perhaps an annual online backup solution is less than a good family day out but can save those treasure moments.
Call us on 01642 786922 to find out about protecting your computers and that vital data.