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Top 10 tips to avoid Ransomware attacks

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CryptoLocker Ransomware


Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system. This type of malware forces its victims to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods in order to grant access to their systems, or to get their data back. Some ransomware encrypts files (called Cryptolocker).

This Malware is designed to lock up businesses’ data and demand a ransom – and the incidence of Ransomware increased by 58% in the second quarter of 2015, according to the McAfee Labs Threats Report: August 2015.

Research has shown that relatively low-cost ransomware attacks typically net thousands of pounds a week for attackers as companies pay ransoms in bitcoin for the decryption keys to unlock their data (Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it and it isn’t banked in the normal way making it and it’s owners virtually untraceable).

10 Tips to avoid Ransomware:

  1. Do not open suspicious looking emails or click on URLs / hyperlinks in such mails.
  2. Do not open suspicious looking attachments or attachments from unknown / untrustworthy senders. Current ransomware variants often embed themselves in attachments as jpeg files (the most common image file type).
  3. When browsing the internet do not click on pop-ups that state that your computer or software is out of date.
  4. Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software installed.
  5. Back-up your critical data on a regular basis.
  6. Act on your suspicions if something appears to be wrong with your PC / laptop.
  7. Turn your PC off immediately if you suspect it is infected. You know you are infected when you try to access data and a pop-up asks for money to access that data.
  8. Do not try to fix it yourself unless you are an IT professional who has dealt with ransomware before. Paying the ransom is an option generally not recommended by IT professionals as there are no guarantees that the deal will be honoured.
  9. Prevent users from being able to execute the malware. Ransomware typically relies on being able to carry out the encryption which is executable from the users %AppData% directory (or sub-directories). Software restriction policies can assist in preventing this.
  10. Restrict end-user access to company mapped drives. By having stricter permissions around what users can access on the company network via mapped drives, it is possible to limit the damage when a ransomware infection occurs.

The latest spin on a ransom note isn’t composed of letters clipped out of a newspaper. Increasingly, criminals are unleashing brash attacks on your PC and its data through a type of malicious software called ransomware.

It’s exasperating enough when your computer is sluggish because of a virus, but what if the virus installs embarrassing pornography on your screen or encrypts your data so you can’t read it? Ransomware attacks often use these tactics to demand you pay a ransom to remove the pornography or to access your files.

“There’s more and more documented evidence that this is going on,” says Ori Eisen, founder and chief innovation officer of fraud prevention company 41st Parameter. “It’s more prevalent in the United Kingdom, which is sort of a staging or testing ground. It’s starting there and getting more momentum.”

The FBI recently issued an alert about the broader category of rogueware, which include ransomware and fake antivirus scareware scams. According to the FBI, criminals are netting an estimated $150 million a year through these scams. “Ransomware is actually scarier” than the scareware scams, says Robert Siciliano, a Boston-based identity theft expert. “There’s nothing worse in the field of technology than having a criminal in control of your network. When a ransomware attack occurs, it can easily elevate from a potential data loss to potential identity theft to a data breach in the form of extortion.”

These aggressive assaults begin in a similar manner to scareware. You’re duped into clicking on an infected popup advertisement or you visit an infected website. However, instead of just trying to trick you into buying fake antivirus software, the bad guys hold your computer hostage and attempt to extort payment.

In some instances, ads for pornographic websites appear on your screen each time you try to click on a Web page. The ads cover a portion of the page you’re trying to view. “Just imagine you’re sitting at work and that happens to you,” says Eisen. One ransomware attack puts time pressure on the victim, stating that a piece of your data will be destroyed every 30 minutes if you don’t pay up. Another attack attempts to force you to purchase a program to de-encrypt your data.

The criminals often ask for a nominal payment, figuring you’ll be more likely to pay to avoid the hassle and heartache of dealing with the virus. They may ask for as little as $10 to be wired through Western Union, paid through a premium text message or sent through a form of online cash.