Monday, January 11, 2021

Ransomware - straightfoward definition and how to protect yourself



I'm sure all of us have heard this phrase on several occasions, as there are numerous companies and even people getting infected with it on a daily basis depending on the variant that's out there and what is being targeted. Although more and more every day, these ransomware programs are beginning to creep their way into everyone's everyday computing sessions.

What is ransomware? Well, the basic description is: A malicious program or set of commands that once executed encrypt all your data on your hard drive and then demand money for the key to decrypt that data. 95% of the time, the payment requested is being requested in the form of Bitcoin (see: Bitcoin) which is the main form of digital currency, said to be untraceable. Although there have been other forms requested for payment.

Ransomware can come in many different forms, and you can be infected by it in many ways as well. For the everyday user, these type of threats are very low, but never zero. Typically ransomware is transmitted by a Trojan, which is a program or other that is disguised as a legitimate program that users are tricked into downloading or executing a file or link that appears to be from a known source. I'm sure we have all seen text messages or emails that appear to be from someone you know, but appear kind of off. Well usually those links contained in there will direct you to a trojan of some form. Now once downloaded, these programs will run in the background of your system, slowly encrypting all your files on your hard drive. (Although some can even sit in the background and are programmed to trigger at different times or when some instances are achieved) Once this program has run it's course, you will usually get a pop-up or directed to a page stating that all your files are encrypted and to send payment to a certain address in order to get the "key" to decrypt your files.

Hopefully you will never have to experience this form of cyber-attack, but as always, there is no harm in keeping yourself protected from it. The best and easiest way is to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date, and having all your Windows updates up-to-date as well. These basic precautions are usually the most proficient way for the everyday user. 

So when you see the little window in the bottom right popping up saying there are updates available for windows or your anti-virus, don't ignore them! Feel free to update them as they are usually pretty straight forward to do as well.  If you are ever attacked or involved in a ransomware attack, it is usually best to consult an IT professional regarding such BEFORE clicking on any further links or payment options etc. Sometimes it can be reversed easy, sometimes not. NEVER send money in any form to any of these attempts. There have been times, that people have sent money to get their information decrypted, and have never heard from the party again. Most ransomware attacks will usually target more established companies or places that have data known to be valuable, as the attacker can extort much larger sums of money.

Below I will add a link to a Wikipedia article explaining ransomware in greater detail. Once again, if you have any further questions or want some further detail, feel free to email me or comment below and I will follow up!

Ransomware - a Wikipedia explanation.

Stay safe.



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