Ransomware – a growing concern

By Anita Jaynes on December 23, 2015

Ransomware is the fastest growing type of attack on people’s computers. The attackers lock your computer and give you a time limit to pay them a fee before they expose or destroy your computer’s contents. Around the world this is growing phenomenon.

CryptoLocker made waves in the media in 2013 as a ransomware program which targeted computers running Microsoft Windows, that many fell foul to but it was just the beginning of a new revenue stream for criminals. CryptoDefense and Cryptowall followed and today there are many variations of ransomware attack and increasing attacks around the globe.

Across Europe, including in the UK, online gamers are the latest targets of the TelsaCrypt ransomware which threatens to destroy their gaming progress unless they pay up in bitcoins worth hundreds of pounds. However – it is the SMEs that perhaps have the most to lose as many keep their important business details on badly protected personal computers.

Businesses can be vulnerable

Adam Harling of Netitude, a Managed Services Provider with offices across the South West said: “Ransomware is on the increase and filters and monitors to stop the phishing at the root of the problem are the best answer. Anyone can be a target and if you are using your computer for business this is a very frightening attack for the victim as it can threaten your livelihood.”

A recent investigation by the Australian Government demonstrates the escalation of the use of this malware. It revealed that 72% of the businesses they surveyed had been attacked via ransomware (this was just 17% in 2013).

Imagine all your Excel and Word files suddenly vanishing – a scary thought when you are tracking your business processes.

“There are things you need to do to avoid being caught out. For one – a good firewall and secondly – a close to real time back up to the cloud,” said Mr Harling.

What you need to know about ransomware

It usually comes to you via a phishing scam – where a fake email is sent impersonating an official body you initially think is genuine. You click on it and it targets you with the program. If unsure, without clicking, drag your pointer over the email sender’s name so the address pops up and you can usually tell if it looks suspicious. If in any doubt – DO NOT open it.

Traditionally, many of the phishing messages looked to be from law enforcement agencies – to worry the computer owner into opening the file.

The software usually demands payment in bitcoins, as they are hard to trace, to the tune of around £300-600. Sometimes a time limit or deadline is set and the ransom increases after this. Also – the money you pay is likely to fuel organised crime. These are scams that intend to generate multi million pound fortunes for criminals and will no doubt perpetuate misery in other forms for other victims, down the line.

Your computer contents can be encrypted in the meantime

If you pay this fee, this is just the same as paying a blackmailer. The problem is that if you pay you will be flagged as an easy target to target again later. It might be possible to recover from the last back-up so do not despair.

To find out more about protecting your business against ransomware and other IT threats contact Netitude: www.netitude.co.uk or Tel 08453 670114.