What is Ransomware? How to Prevent It? How do we Recover?
Ransomware, simply explained is a computer exploit where data is captured, encrypted, and held for ransom until a fee is paid. To understand the monumental threat that Ransomware presents, let’s examine the WannaCry event from May 2017. On its launch date, which was May 12, 2017 the WannaCry Ransomware variant infected nearly 250 million computers globally. This attack affected corporate giants like Federal Express, and crippled systems that power Britain’s healthcare system. Considering that recent estimates of the ransom being demanded is approaching and in some cases exceeding $1,000.00 per infected system, you can see that this has grown into a multibillion-dollar business (for lack of a better term).
The most effective strategies in preventing Ransomware are: employee education; performing regular data backups; restriction of administrative system access, updating and maintaining your systems with the latest patches and updates for the operating systems, applications and anti-virus programs. Though there is no vaccination or preventative application, it comes down to the tried and true method of using good computing common sense, to avoid being one of the millions being affected by this global threat.
In the event of a Ransomware attack the are a few courses of action to prevent a further spread of this fast moving, destructive event. The first and foremost is to isolate the attack by disconnecting your computer from the network, by unplugging your network cable or shutting down your system. Though your computer may already be infected, preventing this from spreading to your business or home network is very important. The next step would be to understand the attack vector that was used, by trying to recall a suspicious email with an attachment that you opened or a link that you may have clicked. Websites can also push Ransomware infected links to your system, but email is the most common method, by which, Ransomware is spread.
Looking ahead and at the facts, with system access and vulnerabilities more prevalent than ever, coupled with the potential for greater financial gains, criminals will continue to target major corporations, governments, education and healthcare. Unfortunately, for us as individuals we can easily be caught in this ongoing, growing wave of attacks. As we wait for governments and agencies to figure out a way to tackle this problem, we need to employ best practices and good computing common sense to protect ourselves and our IT companies.