What is Ransomware?

In May of 2017, the world saw the biggest cyberattack in history. Over 200,000 devices in 150 countries were affected, including hospitals in the UK, a large telecom corporation in Spain, FedEx in the US and even the Russian government. Before this, most of the public had a vague understanding of cybersecurity, but now the importance of protecting our data is coming to the forefront of the mainstream consciousness.

The software behind this historic attack was called WannaCry, a piece of ransomware that encrypts the files and data of targeted organizations and demands payment to regain access. Ransomware is nothing new, but now that the vulnerability of hospitals, government institutions and other critical public services have been made clear, people are rightfully concerned.

As with most aspects of cybersecurity, education and understanding are your most valuable tools of protection. Although criminals are getting smarter and software is becoming more sophisticated, there are certain steps that every person should take to keep himself or herself as secure as possible. Keeping yourself and your systems regularly updated are the keys to safety.



What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a malicious code used by criminals to gain and restrict access to the files on a computer, server or entire network. This software essentially kidnaps your information and demands a monetary payment in order to get it back, hence the name. Payment is usually demanded via bitcoin or other virtual currency as a way of protecting the criminals behind the scam from being traced by law enforcement.

The first known example of ransomware occurred all the way back in 1989, before the Internet was used by the general public. This software, known as the AIDS Trojan, was spread via floppy disks and demanded $189 from users to regain access to their computers. Modern ransomware involves incredibly sophisticated codes that make the AIDS Trojan look like something from the Stone Age. There are two main types of modern ransomware:

Encryptors are the most common forms of modern ransomware. This involves advanced encryption algorithms that are designed to scramble and/or block access to files, programs and data unless the user pays for the encryption key. Some infamous examples of modern encryptors are CryptoLocker, Locky and WannaCry.

Lockers lock the victim out of the entire operating system, making it impossible to access any files, programs or even the desktop. Unlike encryptors, no specific files are encrypted in these cases, but users are asked to pay the ransom in order to unlock the computer. Lockers are generally disguised as law enforcement or other official blocks.



How does ransomware work?
There are a few ways in which ransomware can infect a system. One of the most common ways is tricking users to click links on websites or download files from emails that are disguised as something official. These emails and websites may look like a known organization with the same logo, design and theme as organizations you trust.

These programs will also look for holes in your computer’s security, including old applications that have not been updated. Once the ransomware gains access, it may spread to any other computers or systems connected to your network.

What can I do?
If your computer is attacked by ransomware, you will see a pop-up screen telling you that you are locked out and giving you instructions on how to pay the ransom. If this happens to you, you should not pay the ransom. Once you see the pop-up, immediately stop what you are doing and contact your IT department, your internet provider or your cybersecurity specialist like those at https://cbisecure.com/.

Unfortunately, most users never fully recover their data, even after paying. Even if you do regain access to most of your files, you still have no guarantee that you will not be attacked again, and most users are even more vulnerable afterwards. If you are a victim, shut down your computer immediately and contact the company or department who will be best suited to handle the problem.


Derek Pursley is an influencer marketing pro with brownboxbranding.com who is passionate about building authentic relationships and helping businesses connect with their ideal online audience. He keeps his finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving digital marketing world by writing on the latest marketing advancements​ and focuses on developing customized blogger outreach plans based on industry and competition.           

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