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What you need to know about Ransomware

By: ARRC
March 21, 2016

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, it was reported that victims of Ransomware paid out roughly $24 million in 2015.  And, unfortunately for the public, the FBI predicts this number will continue to grow in 2016.

In fact, we’ve already seen some rather anxiety-inducing Ransomware attacks this year – like the one in Los Angeles last February.  In this particular incident, hackers hit a Hollywood hospital with Ransomware and demanded $3 million from the hospital.  Eventually, that figure was reduced to $17,000 – which the president of the hospital quickly agreed to pay.

So what is Ransomware?  Well, the simplest explanation would be that it’s a form of malware that has the ability to lock your entire computer or individual files.  Once this malware locks your data or device, the hackers will demand payment.

This demand can come in multiple forms.  It can be a simple message that states clearly what is occurring – your computer has been infected with Ransomware and you must pay to retrieve your data.  It can also be an elaborate story created by the hackers – you’re being investigated by the FBI (or another threatening government agency) because you illegally downloaded files on your computer (or something of that nature) and if you pay the fine, you will not face jail time (funeral arrangements and pending court hearings have also been reported).

Whatever the case is, these hackers will usually request a semi-reasonable fine to unlock your business.  The bigger your business, the bigger your fine.  However, it’s incredibly important to note that businesses aren’t the only targets.  Recently, individuals have come into contact with Ransomware on their phones.  In these incidents, the victims are asked to pay a fine between $10 and $100 to unlock their phone.

Hackers have found Ransomware to be unusually effective and profitable because of these “reasonable” fines.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t ask for a large fine, as we saw in the Hollywood hospital scenario.

So you might be wondering how someone becomes infected with malware, and to be quite honest, it isn’t much different than any other form of malware.  If you open a malicious attachment or click on a misleading link or advertisement, you can easily be shut down by Ransomware.

If this does happen to you, it’s extremely important that you have all your data backed up to avoid paying the fine (don’t make it easy for the hackers even if it easy to pay $10).  As a business, you should try to have your data backed up offsite, and as an individual, you can rely on a solution like DropBox or Google Drive.  Whatever it is you decide to do, just make sure you aren’t left to contemplate the price of your data.