Ransomware: What Is It and How to Lower Your Risks

Posted 29/06/2017

Ransomware is a digital threat that is becoming more and more prevalent with the advancement of technology and the skills of hackers. It's important to stay educated and put systems in place to avoid these attacks.

Ransomware is something that is popping up, corrupting computers and businesses around the world, more and more frequently.

Welcome to the future, where a ransom note is no longer made up of letters cut out of a stack of magazines. Today’s average ransom now involves a complete takeover of your computer systems by someone who could be anywhere in the world, encrypting your files and covering their digital trail behind them.

Ransomware is exactly what it sounds like, a hacker using digital software to block or encrypt all your data and hold it for ransom - until you pay up for them to release it back to you.

In response to the recent ransomware attack that has occurred globally, affecting our precious Cadbury factory and other Australian businesses, we wanted to put something out there to tell you what ransomware is all about and the measures you can take to reduce your risk of an attack. We take it on as our digital responsibility to equip our loyal followers with this information.

It has not been long since the last global ransomware attack that sent the digital world into a flurry. Ransomware, Wannacry, made headlines just over a month ago as the largest ransomware attack to have ever occurred. It feels like the dust has barely settled and now there’s another attack on the rampage.

We all know by now that technology moves fast. The digital age is something that evolves every day. It’s hard to keep up with such a fast paced environment, but it’s important that we do. More and more, our businesses and even our social and personal lives depend on this. Ransomware is currently one of the biggest digital threats to watch out for.

Let’s delve into what’s happening.

Ransomware hacking has been around for a long time and has increasingly become more of a problem. In April of this year, the leak of a US National Security Assessment exploits enabled hackers to infect entire networks and have their ransomware spread from computer to computer and network to network without individual user initiation. The ability to spread like this has made ransomware a much bigger threat.

This recent attack started in Ukraine where it has affected the largest amount of businesses and corporations. It has since spread to several other countries including Australia, as we mentioned earlier.

Ransomware is most often started by the opening of an email, a loaded attachment, a bugged website or a few other minor carriers. Hackers have become a lot smarter over the years and have made these infected carriers almost undetectable. Less and less are they using emails with obvious looking dodgy attachments and more and more they are hiding encrypted packages in popular websites, making prey of anyone that visits them. These are often undetectable without specialised tools, making them an easy trap to fall into. With the evolution of ransomware, one website opened by one user can spread the ransomware across an entire network of users - infiltrating the entire business. Other attacks will aim their focus on unsecure networks from the get-go, in this instance, all that needs to happen on the user’s end is for the computer to be turned on. No action needs to be taken for the ransomware to invade the entire network. Networks that are not secured properly are the most vulnerable to this type of attack.

How can you prevent it?

The best way to prevent ransomware attacks is to keep your computer and digital security systems up to date. Hackers often rely on the fact that people are using old systems that have known holes in them to push their attacks through. This is also true for applications like Adobe, or Microsoft Office that need to be regularly updated.

Updating your computer systems should also include the uninstalling of out of date browser plugins like Flash, Java and Silverlight. Getting rid of old software is just as important as updating current ones. Similarly, systems like Windows XP and Vista no longer receive security updates from Microsoft, making them incredibly vulnerable to hacking. If you are using these systems, it’s definitely time to look into something more current and secure that you are able to update regularly.

On top of regular system updates, it is important to have a solid antivirus software protecting your entire computer system. As an additional measure, you can also pay for other tools that can protect you from potentially unwanted applications.

We said it before and we’ll say it again - digital technology moves FAST. It’s a point that we can’t stress enough! It doesn’t take long for hackers to find new ways around database security systems and even antivirus software. It is hard even for the people updating these software systems to stay ahead of the game. The speed at which this all happens makes it vital that operating systems, antivirus softwares and all other security measures are updated as soon as an update is made available.

Staying up to date with all your operating systems and security updates is your best bet to keep your systems clear of ransomware and your data out of enemy hands. While there is never any complete guarantee, you can take every precaution to secure your databases. As digital technology continues to develop and businesses become increasingly more dependent on online systems, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep up with the latest methods and measures to optimise security.

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