What is Ransomware and what do You Need to Know to Protect Yourself?

I read an article the other day about the predictions for internet security in 2017.  What caught my attention was that ransomware was forecasted to rise on smart devices. Further Internet Securityresearch led me to an article called, “How to remove ransomware: Use this battle plan to fight back”. This is a great article to bookmark, and also made me think about how many people are actually unaware of the threats of ransomware, as it isn’t as well known as malware.

So as the dust settles from 2016 and we move deeper into 2017, ransomware is definitely something I recommend that everyone keep an eye on. Many articles have predicted this to be one of the internet security threats to watch in 2017 as the attacks on other devices become more aggressive. These attacks can happen not only to the little guys like us, but also to large organisations and even celebrities. In the US, several state law enforcement organisations have been targeted and even David Beckham, one of the UK’s most iconic sporting figures, has had his emails leaked after refusing to comply with ransom hackers.

Revisit malware

Before we dive into ransomware, it’s important to revisit malware: Malware is the term used for malicious software that is installed on a computer or mobile devices to disrupt the user by gathering confidential information or by displaying advertising that is either unwanted or used to entrap the user.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware example: Jigsaw

Ransomware is just as it sounds. It is a form of malware technology that locks a person’s computer or mobile device holding users at ‘ransom’. This form of attack is not new by any means as We Live Security reports that the first case dates back to 1989. Although there is a never-ending battle between the hackers and the security companies, there will always be a fight for balance of power, therefore, we should always have our guard up.

Ransomware is an evolution of malware as it uses aggressive tactics that come from blocking or locking certain files or programs within the user’s computer or mobile device. Once installed, your files will not be accessible as they will be encrypted, meaning you won’t be able open, use or transfer them. There is an alternative view that ransomware will be on the decline in 2017 due to advanced security technology combatting this malicious software and stricter laws to deter offenders. Others are of the opposite view, stating that mobile devices will be at the centre of the attacks as more and more technology is connecting to the web, with differing levels of security.

Ransomware has grown in popularity over the years as criminals retire their balaclavas and gloves for technology that is virtually impossible to trace back to. It’s as easy as creating or using an existing program and linking it to a website for free software download, or a social media post that is intriguing enough for people to click on or download.

Attacks on phones, televisions and watches

I began to look into the predictions for mobile device ransomware and found to my surprise, smart TVs are one of the items susceptible to attack. It’s important to note that every year more devices come online and due to technological advancement and everything being integrated, we are seeing a massive rise in smart TV’s and Watches connecting to web.

So with the increasing availability and usage of the cloud, most mobile device users will have their data virtually backed up. Mobile ransomware will aim to steal users’ bank credentials and take money directly from their accounts as they will be locking these devices. The harsh reality is that most people freak owhen it happens to these devices as they cost more than computers and phones and will just pay the ransom.

The importance of backing up your data

Data BackupsOne of the things that we at Netway Networks pride ourselves on is offering proactive and reactive support. We do aim to solve problems before you even know about it, but in case you don’t use our services or you have been attacked on your personal device, we recommend you are ready with proactive strategies.

My advice to you, backup, backup and backup your data. You can’t be held for ransom if you don’t have anything to lose. If your data is backed up every couple of hours or every night, then ransom hackers don’t have a leg to stand on. You might lose a couple of hours of data, but it might be a small price to pay.

Regarding smart devices, it is important to use well-known brands and only to have them connected to the internet when needed. Do not access websites that might be dodgy as your device will not have the same level of security as your computer.

Images: Deposit Photos

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