Ransomware is the gift that keeps on giving for cybercriminals. Google research revealed recently that online extortionists have managed to grab more than $25 million from their victims over the past two years. Other estimates suggest businesses and netizens handed over as much as $1 billion in 2016 alone.
Whatever the final figure, it’s clear from the global WannaCry outbreak in May that this threat is here to stay.
So what can we do to keep our most valuable data safe and secure?
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks the victim out of their computer, either by freezing the screen, or more commonly by encrypting all files so that they’re impossible to read or access. This so-called “crypto-ransomware” requires the user to pay a fee in Bitcoins or similar to regain access to their files via a decryption key. The charge for this key can be in the region of several hundred dollars but could rise to nearer $1000, although there’s no guarantee you’ll even get your data back after payment.
The ransomware threat has actually been around for about a decade, although it’s only taken off in recent years. Trend Micro spotted a massive 752% increase in new types of ransomware last year alone. The bad news is, off-the-shelf packages sold on the cybercrime underground have made it a cinch for criminals to get involved, even those with little technical know-how. In the past they’ve targeted hospitals, schools, radio stations and even the San Francisco Muni. No-one is safe.
Imagine if you try logging on tomorrow only to find a hacker has effectively locked your computer and taken away the keys? All your most valuable family photos, videos, work documents, tax records and other financial information could be lost for good.
Luckily, by taking just a few careful steps, you could greatly reduce the chances of getting hit.
You can expose your computer to ransomware in several ways. It can be accidentally downloaded if you visit a compromised website that may look legitimate but has malware lurking on it, possibly in advertisements. It could also arrive on the back of other malware, or in attachments and links in phishing or spam emails.
Prevention is the best approach to take, because once the ransomware itself has infected your machine, it could be impossible to remove. We know there’s no single “silver bullet” to keep you 100% safe from such threats. That’s why the Trend Micro approach is based on cross-generational, multi-layered protection featuring a breadth of security controls designed to stop anything malicious from slipping through the cracks. The latest enhancement is machine learning, which can spot and block unknown malware variants before they can do any damage.
Here are a few key things to remember:
For more information on ransomware, visit our website. Remember, even paying the ransom is no guarantee you’ll get your data back, so plan ahead now to keep this insidious threat at bay.