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Ransomware is malware that encrypts data or restricts access to your computer files, applications,systems, or mobile devices. What makes ransom ware so effective? Ransomware is “cyber blackmail” that cybercriminals are using to target individuals, companies, and large enterprises for financial gain. It has replaced advanced persistent threat (APT) network attacks as the most problematic cyber security threat for web users and businesses.
It is estimated that the creators of the notorious Crypto Wall Ransomware virus have raised more than $325 million in revenue in 2015 alone. This growing cyber threat not only affects individuals, but also has recently made headlines for attacks on corporations. That’s why more businesses are considering cyber security audit and cyber security training for minimizing ransom ware threats.
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Ransomware Dominates the Cyber Threat Landscape
Ransomware attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated and prevalent. Ransom ware is typically installed in your computer via phishing e-mails or when you visit a malicious website. Once activated, the malware encrypts files on the hard drive of your computer using a 2,048-bit key that is impossible to break. Ransomware variants have gone through some drastic changes since its early days.
The number of new Ransomware variants in the first half of 2016 has increased by 172% as compared to the last year. Three new malware variants include JIGSAW (which deletes encrypted files every time the victim fails to pay the ransom amount on the given deadline), SURPRISE(which increases the ransom amount when the victim misses a deadline), and POWERWARE (which encrypts tax return files).
How to Protect Yourself
Individuals and organizations can lessen the risk of ransom ware attack by acquiring knowledge about this malware through cyber security training and investing in layered security solutions. You can follow these steps to avoid becoming a victim of ransom ware:
- Strong Network Security: Strong malware defense is well-designed and properly implementedby security professionals. First and foremost, cyber security audit is essential to understand the potential threats and security gaps. Get more advanced malware protection tools such as cloud-based antivirus, network traffic monitoring technologies, and software/application firewall. Create backups for critical data and assets that are at risk to ransom ware infections.
- Update Your Software: Running outdated software increases your risks as the known vulnerabilities are not patched. It opens opportunities for criminals to exploit these vulnerabilities to inject malware in your system and encrypt files. Make it a practice to update your software on a regular basis as this will decrease the potential for ransom ware attacks.
- Role-based Security Education: Security teams need to be provided cyber security training, so that they know how to monitor, assess, and protect servers and systems from the risk of getting infected by ransom ware. Employees must be educated about the security threats as well as how to properly handle suspicious e-mails and documents.
The best security solutions to prevent and remediate ransom ware attacks include regular cyber security audits, strong network security management, patch management, and cyber security awareness training. If web users and organizations don’t implement security solutions, they will remain vulnerable to attack from Ransomware creators and may end up paying cyber ransom.