Yet Another Ransomware Attack

 

Once again, a "ransomware" attack is in the news. We've recived many calls at the office from clients concerned about their online safety. There seem to be three main questions: what is ransomware? How can I avoid it, and how do I protect myself?

WHAT IS RANSOMWARE?

Ransomware refers to a specific type of malicious software that allows hackers to take control of your computer and block access to it (by encrypting files) until a ransom, usually ranging for $300-$350, is paid. Most often, a message appears prominently on your computer telling you this information.

HOW CAN I AVOID BECOMING INFECTED?

  • If you remember nothing more from this article, remember this: Don’t click on any link, or open any email/attachment you don’t recognize. I've seen dozens of ransomware infections over the past couple of years, and they have all infiltrated the network in the same way: through an e-mail attachment. If you If you receive a strange, unexpected, or vague e-mail attachment, even if it's from someone you know - DON'T JUST OPEN IT. Call the sender to make sure it’s real. I've seen ransomware infections masquerade as information on FedEx deliveries, links to Dropbox accounts, or just files attached from an aquaintence that state " here's the info on what we were dicussing earlier."
  • Hover over email addresses/links and make sure the link takes you to somewhere expected. If it looks funny, delete it or avoid clicking on it.

HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF?

This past April, a group called the Shadow Brokers released malware written by the National Security Agency (NSA) to infect Windows computers. This software enables criminals to hack into, and control, all Windows versions before Windows 10. This is why it's been all over the news recently, these exploits are very effective, so massive amounts of computers can be infected using them. That's the bad news.
The good news is before that ransomware was released, Microsoft fixed the flaw, and if you applied the update, you were immune to the infection. So the first thing to do is install Windows updates. These update fix flaws in Window's computer code that allow ransomware in.
Next, run an anti-virus program. White Wolf Computer recommeds Webroot. We are a reseller, and we can install it remotely on your computer in less than 5 minutes. We currently have it deployed on nearly 700 of our client's computers, and not one of them has been infected with ransomware. Nothing is perfect, but Webroot is very close.
If you own a business, and have a commercial grade router, e.g. a Sonicwall, purchase the security subscription. This is additional protection that scans network traffic before it's allowed in. Sonicwall's anti-virus engine blocked both of the ransomware infections that have been in the news recently (WannaCry and Petya), so it wouldn't have even entered your network.
Finally, be vigilant. as stated earlier, if you don't open the e-mail attachment, or don't click on a suspicious link, you'll avoid the infection.
If you don't feel you have the knowledge, or the time, to secure your computer/network, we offer several plans to assist you in staying safe. Whether you're a commercial or residential client, we have a plan that is right for you. We can manage your anti-virus, install Windows updates, as well as other software updates, and configure your PC or network so it's as safe as possible. Contact us today, we're here to keep your data safe!

RANSOMWARE FACTS

  • A security company, Symantec, studied one specific ransomware attack for one month. 2.9% of compromised users paid out. Seems like a bad deal, until you realize they were infecting 5,700 computers per day, for a total of 68,000 computers during the month. Based on the rate they were charging (between $60 to $200) to unlock the computer, they earned about $33,000 PER DAY. This means the criminals could have made up to $394,000 IN ONE MONTH.
  • Due to the strength of the encryption used on recent ransomware attacks, the FBI advises paying the ransom to get your data back
  • Ransomware makes more in one year than most computer security businesses are worth. One single strain of ransomware, Cryptowall, made over $325 million in the US alone during 2015. That's more than the security firm FireEye paid for iSight partners ($200 million)
  • Early versions of ransomware has been seen that will take senstive data from your computer/phone (selfies sent to a romantic partner, business documents, etc) and threaten to publish it online unless a ransom is paid. This variant will probably be the next wave of ransomware.

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