What is Ransomware?

What would it mean if you lost all of your files, photos, research document? How much would you pay to get them back? There’s a growing form of cybercrime that depends on the answers to these questions.

You have probably heard of viruses and malware. These dangerous pieces of software can make their way into your computer and wreak havoc. Malware authors are intent on stealing your data and disrupting the proper function of your digital devices.

Then there is ransomware. Ransomware does not steal data, but rather it holds it captive by encrypting files and then displaying a ransom note on the victim’s screen. It demands payment for the cyber-extortion and threatens obliteration of data otherwise.

How can you protect yourself? The best thing you can do is practice good “digital hygiene”:

  • Don’t fall prey to social engineering or phishing, which is where an attacker attempts to have you reveal sensitive information to them.
  • Don’t install any software, plugins or extensions unless you know they’re from reputable source. If in doubt, ask and only rely on trusted download sources. And certainly don’t be tempted to pick up USB sticks found on your pathway.
  • Update your software regularly to ensure you are always running the latest versions.
  • Back up! Important documents need to be treated like valued possessions. Grab a hand full of USB Keys and rotate your backups daily or weekly, and don’t leave USB keys plugged in (current malware strains can scan removable USB disks). Multiple copies means holding your information for ransom is pretty much worthless.

Ransomware is a very real threat. Its rapid growth is driven by the low risk to attackers and good financial returns. We all need to stay ahead of the game. Let’s start now and be digital safe!