Ransomware: What Are the Bad Guys After and How Do I Stop Them?

Recently, brand new open source ransomware samples were discovered that demonstrate specific characteristics showing that the enterprise community is more of a target than ever.

If the past few days of WannaCry ransomware activity have taught us anything it’s that cybercriminals pose a clear and present danger to organizations and their customers all over the world. But have you ever wondered exactly what the bad guys are after when they launch their online attacks at your own PC or mobile device?

New Trend Micro stats reveal that ransomware cuts across a broad sweep of personal, financial and work-related files.

The bad news is that such attacks could have a major impact on your life, both financially and emotionally.

A great deal at risk

Even before the global WannaCry attacks, ransomware was on the rise. In fact, Trend Micro recorded a massive 752 percent increase last year in new varieties of the malware. Ransomware attacks typically involve the bad guys infecting your machine with malware which effectively locks you out. They’ll usually promise to offer a virtual “key” to so you can get back into your machine and read that data – at a price. But if you refuse, and you haven’t backed-up that data, it could be gone forever.

So what’s at risk? Our recent survey of US households revealed that 24 percent lost photos as the result of an attack, while 18 percent lost videos. It’s not hard to see that the bad guys are betting on this. They want to threaten your most precious digital memories, so you pay for the ransomware key to regain access to them.

Yet that’s not all. One in five respondents said they also lost access to their work documents, while 19 percent claimed their Word docs had been encrypted and were unreadable. Suddenly this personal data loss dilemma has become a major work-related issue. The cybercriminals have just raised the stakes to force a ransom payment, knowing some employers are less tolerant than others. Are you prepared to gamble your job over a ransomware infection?

The bigger picture

The good news is that the majority of households we spoke to (58 percent) didn’t permanently lose any data. Presumably they followed best practice and had back-ups to restore from, or else found a security vendor to help them make their data readable again. But that still leaves a large number who lost valuable personal and/or work-related data.

We should also remember that this is just one type of cyber attack. Cybercriminals are fond of ransomware because it’s a quick and easy way for them to make money. But it’s not the only way, by any means. You could also be at risk from data thieves looking to steal rather than encrypt your personal and financial data. Why? Because it can fetch a tidy sum on the cyber black market, where scammers purchase and then use it to commit identity and other fraud.

These attacks can also have a long-term impact on victims. Even if the money you lose as a result is reimbursed by your bank, the incident could affect your credit rating, impairing your ability to get loans and new credit cards, and even result in letters from lawyers and debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.

What should I do next?

That’s why it’s so important to ensure your PC and mobile devices are always secure and up-to-date, and that you regularly back-up any valuable data. Here are a few best practice tips to keep you safe:

  • Never click on a link or open an attachment in an unsolicited email/text/social media message
  • Back-up your data regularly, according to the 3-2-1 rule
  • Always install the latest vendor patches/updates for your software and OS
  • Use two-factor authentication if possible on your online accounts
  • Seek out a reputable provider to secure your PC and devices with
    •     Anti-malware
    •     Anti-ransomware
    •     Protection from email scams/phishing
    •     Social media privacy tools
    •     Password protection/password manager

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