What is Ransomware?
“What are you working on?” I jumped when a friend of mine spooked me while I was working at a local coffee shop. I was so focused on my screen that he could have roundhouse kicked me to the side of the head and I wouldn’t have seen it coming. I stopped working and after a quick exchange of bro hugs and handshakes I told him that I was researching a bit about ransomware. His forehead crinkled and said, “What’s ransomware?”
My friend is not the only one in the dark when it comes to the ever-increasing plague that is ransomware. When I worked for Texas Instruments we dealt with virus attacks all the time. I always thought that viruses were pointless. What did the end user really get out of it other than street cred among other hackers? With ransomware the virus attacks your hard drive that encrypts all of your data. If you want to get it back, you have to pay a ransom. The payments that are requested are usually low and so they have a higher payment rate. Plus, payments are normally requested using bitcoin – an untraceable digital currency which is a decentralized and accepted by millions of vendors online and it can be exchanged for real currencies.
Getting Bitcoins from a Seedy Bar
Recently a friend of mine, we will call him Jason, had his hard drive attacked by ransomware and he had to go and get $800 in bitcoins from a machine located at a seedy bar. He said he went in during the day because it would have been too frightening to go into a bar like that at night. As he walked in the place had blacked out windows and dim lighting. Once the door closed behind him he couldn’t tell if it was day or night outside, suddenly it was just one constant time – beer thirty.
The smell or urine, sweat and vomit hung in the air in place of cigarette smoke. As he made his way to the back of the bar near the restrooms he was suddenly acutely aware of the fat stack of bills bulging in his pants pocket. Because he was in a rush he had drawn $800 in cash out of an ATM and so he had forty twenty dollar bills to feed into the bitcoin machine one at a time. Pulse racing, fingers shaking, he finally got all of the cash in and the bitcoin card out. He then had to trust that once he paid the person that they would hold up their end of the bargain – fortunately, they did.
One of the biggest and most recent cyber attacks happened in May 2017, it was called WannaCry and it infected over 300,000 computers impacting 200,000 users.
Ransomware Attacks on the Rise
Friday May 12th marked the beginning of WannaCry – in the biggest Ransomware attack EVER – spreading across the globe encrypting 200K business systems in over 150 countries. The ransomware has impacted organizations far and wide, including Britain’s National Health Service, FedEx, Nissan and Deutsche Bahn, causing extreme amounts of downtime.
Just weeks after the WannaCry attack, a new wave of ransomware is infecting and locking computers around the globe, targeting companies of all shapes and sizes.
So here are the critical questions for your business:
- Do you backup your data and is it easily recoverable?
- Is all of your software up-to-date? How do you know?
- Do you have antivirus and is that up to date?
- What would you do if you were attacked? Would you pay up?
This is only the beginning of these vicious cyberattacks. Don’t become a statistic, let’s get your business ready for what’s to come.