We have a lot to be thankful for with the advances of technology, but like anything there will always be people keen to take advantage. Hackers have long been targeting personal details, so there has always been a risk to shopping online. It isn’t just shopping online that comes with risks, though. Hackers have the ability to compromise your software on a number of levels, from accessing your webcam, your private files and taking control of your computer entirely.
In 2013 a storm hit and it was ransomware, one of those tools hackers use. It’s a malware that infects your computer and locks you out of your system until you cough up the ransom that those unsavoury hackers are demanding.
It is more prevalent in the United Kingdom than anywhere else, and nets the criminals over 100 million pounds a year (http://www.us.norton.com/yoursecurityrersource/detail.jsp?aid=rise_in_ransomware).
For the average user the danger is loss of any work or files stored on the hardrive. The ransom is generally set rather low so that the temptation is to pay it to get control back, but hackers can earn up to £75,000 a month!
For companies with vast systems, despite generally having an IT team, the cost can soar because it isn’t just about paying the ransom, it’s about the loss of working time, the data that has been compromised and the potentially brand damaging impact that it has.
There is some good news if this happens to you, unlike a few years ago there are now tools available to help you remove the malware (http://www.techworld.com/security/7-best-ransomware-removal-tools-how-clean-up-cryptlocker-cryptowall-extortion-malware-3626974).
The best preventative measures to avoid being a victim of malware: a good anti-virus programme and regularly backing up your files externally, because you might be able to clean up the infection but there is absolutely no guarantee your files will be restored. Be careful what websites you access and what popups you click, it’s common for infected popups to be used to sucker you in. Enabling your pop up blocker can prevent you from even accidentally hitting the wrong button and leading you down this nasty path. There is nothing more terrifying than a popup that looks like it is from the FBI telling you that your system has accessed child pornography. It can also come in an email, so beware (http://www.infosecurityeurope.com/_novadocuments/89024?v=635703301368700000).
If you find yourself the subject of an attack, it’s important not to panic: disconnect your computer from the internet immediately (if you have a network of systems make sure you isolate the infected one to prevent it from spreading throughout your entire setup), do not pay the ransom and do report it to the authorities. Provided you have followed the above advice of backing up your information externally then nothing can be gained by paying the ransom, it might expedite the process of you getting control of your system back but you can do that on your own. The more people that give in and pay the ransom, the more this will continue.