Or kidnapped; which ever works for you. They’re basically one and the same and depending on the data taken, the effects can be just as horrendous as kidnapping living things. and this is all achieved by means of ransomware.
Ransomware is malware that hijacks a user’s data and holds it till ransom (specified by the criminal) is paid. The criminals typically promise to restore the data after the money is paid, but can you really count on a criminal’s word though? Note that this data doesn’t leave your device, it is not taken away. It is only locked up so you can’t access it. Ransomware attacks also affect both individuals and organisations alike so NOBODY is safe.
To gain access to a victim’s device and plant the ransomware, cyber criminals mostly use emails with infected attachments (see here about malicious email attachments) or DRIVE-BY DOWNLOADS. Drive-by downloads happen when a user visits an infected website and malware is downloaded and installed on the device without the user’s knowledge.
So how does one prevent ransomware from getting onto their device in the first place? Well first off, REGULARLY BACK UP YOUR DATA! And also:
- Do NOT open untrusted email attachments.
- Only download from sites you trust.
- AVOID giving out your personal data.
- NEVER plug unfamiliar USBs into your device.
- ENSURE all your software and operating systems have the latest updates.
- ALWAYS USE A VPN when using public WiFi.
- Install security software (such as antivirus) on all your devices.
Now it could be that you tried to prevent it, but somehow still fell victim. Or you fell victim before you saw this read. Or after reading this you happen upon someone whose data has been ‘jacked (OK you get the picture, I’ll stop now). I’m basically saying how do you respond to a ransomware attack?
Immediately you realise you’ve fallen victim to ransomware, disconnect your device from any network or other devices you’re connected to. This will keep the infection contained, and from spreading to other users.
Also, whatever you do, do NOT pay the ransom. Think of it like this; the only reason these criminals are emboldened to commit this crime is because it is lucrative.
When they realise people won’t pay to get their data back, they will lose their bargaining chip and the attack will lose its appeal. But of course, the only way you can truly turn your back on your data is if you have another copy of it sitting somewhere else. And this is why the surest way to combat ransomware attacks it to REGULARLY BACK UP YOUR DATA. You should create back ups everyday, or at least every two days. This would mean you always have the most recent copy of your data to turn to and/or restore, in the event of an attack. Because with the whole remote work trend going on now, internet users (both individuals and businesses) are like sitting ducks and you could be, unless you’ve got an ace (read as backup!) up your sleeve.
For businesses, ransomware attacks are even more detrimental. Look at it this way; criminals get hold of your data and decide to sell it off or leak it to the general public. The credibility of your business immediately drops – especially if you deal with sensitive data – and customers can’t trust you with their money, data or lives anymore. As a result, you go broke, file for bankruptcy and shut down the business. Not only that, but your reputation may be forever soiled, making it difficult for you to get back in business. True story – a ransomware attack can lead to actual loss of human life! As such, it is VERY important that we take the preventive measures (listed earlier) quite seriously.
Need another reason to avoid falling victim to a ransomware attack and having to pay to get your data restored? THERE’S NO GUARANTEE THAT THE CRIMINALS WILL KEEP THEIR END OF THE BARGAIN AND UNLOCK YOUR DATA EVEN AFTER YOU PAY THE RANSOM. It’s a pure gamble. So get into regularly BACKING UP YOUR DATA today, so you don’t have to fund a cyber criminal’s hobby.