Magpie Tech Tips

April 07, 2015

3 Ways to Protect Against Ransomware (and Why Everyone Needs To)

As if malware wasn't bad enough, ransomware has invaded the Web. It doesn't just infect computers...it holds them hostage! Here's what to know about ransomware, and ways to protect yourself.

In 2014, ransomware invaded the Web. In 2017, it proved itself as a worldwide threat.

Ransomware has been around for many years. But in 2017 it created a pandemic-level shockwave blasting across the world. WannaCry shutting down cities, NotPetya destroying terabytes of business data, and Bad Rabbit rampaging across Eastern Europe.

It’s not stopping. You and your business need to know what ransomware does…so you can stay out of its crosshairs.

What is Ransomware?

"Ransomware" is a type of computer program that steals your data and demands money from you to get it back. It’s a form of cyber-blackmail.

The typical method of attack goes as follows:

  1. Malware gets onto your computer from an email attachment, social media, or another route.
  2. The malware downloads a ransomware program.
  3. The ransomware encrypts part (or all) of your computer’s hard drive.
  4. A message pops up demanding money, or you’ll never get your files back.
  5. The blackmailers usually want you to pay in Bitcoin (because it’s anonymous).
  6. If you pay, the blackmailer sends a key, which lets you decrypt your hard drive, & gets your files back. Most of the time.

While there are no guarantees the blackmailer will let you unlock the files after payment, this article from NetworkWorld says ransomware authors do typically "honor the agreement."

An example—In December 2014, the Massachusetts Police Department paid $500 to CryptoLocker. The ransomware app had rendered the Police Department inoperable. Entering the Police Department network through a workstation, it found its way to the main server, and even got to the external backup drive.

Ransomware is already in its seventh generation. And it’s become big business – the average payout as of early 2017 was $1,077 per victim!

No one knows just how many ransomware programs exist…likely hundreds. They now spread on-demand, using everything from social media to cloud storage (like Dropbox) to infect more computers. Even the Mafia now uses ransomware, for a modern twist on the old rackets.

The Best Defense: 3 Prevention Methods

Because ransomware spreads via malware tactics, protecting your office against malware will reduce the chances of getting hit. We advise using all 3 of these methods.

  • Cybersecurity Training – Train employees to use caution with email, suspicious websites and social media. There are cues to watch out for, such as an unexpected popup asking you to click it. (Don't click. In fact, close the whole browser window instead.)
  • Backups – Make daily secure backups to keep all users’ data safe! Keep them offsite, and check them regularly.
  • Network Security – Anti-malware, Web/email filtering, share access restrictions, etc. Critical protection software at every level minimizes the chance of a cyberattack on users’ computers/mobile devices. Solid cybersecurity takes several elements, but we recommend you start with Malwarebytes.

2017 UPDATE: Added new information from the 2017 ransomware outbreaks like WannaCry, NotPetya, and Bad Rabbit.

More questions about ransomware and our recommended solutions? Email us for help at info@planetmagpie.com.