Ransomware has been affecting computers for a number of years but the recent news where the entire computer system of the Lincolnshire County Council was closed for many days and the county was blackmailed reinforces the fact that it is an ongoing and serious problem for everyone.
The first ransomware attack was observed in US in 2005 but it has spread all over the world in the past few years with other types of malware. This piece of code either blocks access by encrypting all the files on the computer or holds the entire computer hostage. Usually, a pop-up window shows up on an infected computer with the owner instructed to pay anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of pounds to unlock the encrypted data.
It can affect anyone including small businesses, consumers as well as large companies. The ransomware attack on the Lincolnshire County Council is described as the biggest cyber security attack experienced by the Council and this is after they thought that they had the required cyber security measures in place. It is also claimed by the council that the ransomware that affected their computer system was zero day malware which means it was the first time this malware was seen in the open.
The attackers initially asked for £1 million from the Lincolnshire County Council to restore data. The council didn’t pay the ransom but they had to switch off all the servers and personal computers to thoroughly check all the hardware in the organization to halt the spread of malware. The staff had to use pen, paper and phone for their work and the local press was engaged to urge the members of the public to not contact the council for non-urgent things. All the computer systems were shut down for a period of four days.
Ransomware attack is extremely dangerous and it is usually spread through e-mail by masquerading as something else, often as an attachment to an innocent looking e-mail. Once the program is opened, it immediately freezes the computer and makes it impossible to retrieve or access anything stored on the computer.
A new version of this ransomware in this category is known as CDT-Locker and it’s extremely difficult to detect. In fact, security software also finds it difficult to locate this virus as it is hidden deep inside the files where it is difficult to detect. Also, hackers are using other ways to encourage people to download these viruses to their computer by making them look genuine programs.
For instance, a hacker may send you an e-mail posing as your utility company where then they will ask you to download the attached form and fill it up. If you do not fill up the form, your power will be cut off. Hackers are also using social engineering these days. They may also pretend to be one of the persons in your contact list while sending you an e-mail.
Hackers that use social engineering are aware of the fact that a person is more likely to click a link in an e-mail if it is sent using the name of someone they trust. Newsgroups postings and social media sites are also increasingly being used for spreading viruses by cyber criminals.
How To Keep You and Your Business Safe from Ransomware?
There are a number of things you can do to protect your computer and your business. Here’s a list of some of the precautions you need to take to remain safe:
- Always update your antivirus software.
- Always take regular backups of your computer and store them somewhere safe away from the computer. This will help in retrieving data in case your computer becomes a victim of this virus.
- Do not open attachments sent by anyone you do not know. Take care while opening links in e-mails.
However, even after taking all the precautions, you may fall victim to ransomware. In such a case, keep in mind these three things:
The first thing you need to do is switch off the computer and disconnect it from the network. It is an extremely important step to protect other computers on the network as an infected computer may also spread the virus to other computers.
Give a call to the police as hacking someone is a serious crime and it is your duty to report such crime.
It is extremely important that you do not succumb to the demands of the hackers. If you pay them, it will only embolden them and there is a chance that you may target you again. Also, they may not provide you access to the computer even if you pay them.
Visit the below mentioned resources for the ransom ware attack on the Lincolnshire County Council and other general information: