On Wired: Cyber Security & Ransomware

Cyber security is evolving! Because traditional cyber thieves are moving away from their old tricks, like stealing credit card numbers and bank account information, in favor of using ransomware on their victims, cyber security is evolving to keep your data safe. Ransomware preys on everyone, from police offices and lawmakers to hospitals and online casinos. Hackers use ransomware attacks to encrypt computers or critical files, demanding that victims pay a ransom to in order to unlock them. Last year, the FBI estimated that the attacked reported to them alone cost victims roughly $24 million. Even if data is backed up and you choose not to pay the ransom, ransomware can still cost hours of wiping hardware and data retrieval. The prime targets of ransomware are companies or organizations that depend on daily access to critical data, and can't afford to lose access in the time it takes to respond to a cyber security attack. This includes banks, hospitals, Congress, police departments, airlines, and airports as likely targets, but any large corporation or government agency should also be on guard against these attacks. Individual users and home computers can also be at risk, and the suggestions below can apply to these as well. Here are a few cyber security measures you can take to help protect your data from cyber extortionists:
  • Ignore Suspicious Emails & Links. One simple way to improve your cyber security is to simply ignore emails that look like spam or phishing attacks.
  • Install a Good Ad Blocker. Some ransomware hackers also use a scheme known as "malvertising," which embeds malware into ads on websites you alright know and trust.
  • Patch Security Holes. No security system is infallible. If you're a large company with much to lose from a ransomware attach, it's a good idea to patch software security holes in order to prevent them from being exploited.
  • Too Late? Disconnect. If your system is already infected, disconnect to prevent the ransomware from spreading.
  • And finally...Back Up, Back Up, Back Up. One of the simplest, most important things you can do to minimize the effects of ransomware attacks is to back your data up via secure, cloud-based services. You can also back data up on a secure, offline or server, storage device or server. However, it's important to know that backups don't always make the situation pain-free; since it can sometimes take a week or more to restore data, depending on the volume locked, some organizations might elect to pay the ransom over spending that time without necessary information.