What is Ransomware and How Can You Protect Your Network?

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July 1, 2016SecurityNo comments

Hackers don’t care if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. They want your money and they work hard to develop malware that can separate you from it. Ransomware is malware that encrypts your computer’s files in order to hold them for ransom. If you don’t pay, it’s unlikely you’ll ever decrypt those files.  

You can prevent malware with comprehensive cybersecurity, but it has to be the sort that is able to block inbound and outbound communication to a hacker’s computer. Ransomware is more intelligent than other malware types. It takes above-average security to ensure an attack doesn’t occur; the standard virus protection fare doesn’t exactly cut it in this case.

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How Ransomware Works.

Ransomware is developed by hackers. It wasn’t a widely distributed malware until 2013 when CryptoWall made its debut. Since then, ransomware has infected countless systems and earned hackers upwards of $30 million dollars. CryptoWall went on to spawn copycats, such as Cryptolocker—which was taken down by law enforcement, as well frequently being updated and continuously used successfully to attack organizations of all sizes. CryptoWall is currently on its fourth version.

Despite its relative obscurity, ransomware actually predates the Internet. It was first distributed on floppy discs and mailed to victims. “PC Cyborg Corporation” was stamped on the floppy that included a survey asking users about their sexual history in order to provide them with a fictitious measure of their risk for AIDS. The resulting Trojan, a ransomware which encrypted the victim’s files, became known as the AIDS Trojan.

Once the ransomware settles into the system (could be a day, a month, or really any length of time), the user will find their files are inaccessible. Your entire network or PC could be shut down, or just a few files may be inaccessible. It really depends on the type of ransomware downloaded to your system. The decryption code will not be distributed to you until you agree to pay money.

How to Fix It

Unfortunately, ransomware is particularly difficult to remove. In some instances, your only choice is to pay the ransom. You can try an automatic remover, but it’s important to note the amount of time you’re given. Hackers aren’t generous with their time, and may only allow you a day or two to pay the money. Or, they may only give you less than 24 hours. Once the time has expired, the hacker disappears with your encryption code and there’s a chance you’ll never decrypt the files.

Even if you pay the ransom, the hacker may not share the code to decrypt your files. The best strategy is to never fall victim to ransomware. If you regularly backup your system, you can restore the device to an earlier version and then upload the saved files. Aside from always backing up your system regularly, take advantage of comprehensive cybersecurity to ensure malware is never able to embed itself in the first place.

 

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