Ransomware is a kind of malware that blocks computer users from their systems. It does this either by locking some folders or locking the system’s screen until a ransom pays.
The history of this malicious software dates back to 1980. In 1980, the first ransomware identified to be PC Cyborg also known as AIDS began. This malware could encode files in the C: Directory after forcing the computer system to reboot up to 90 times. Its victims were forced to pay $189 ransom via mail. This ransomware was easy to decrypt by people who understand computer systems and therefore posed only a little threat
Real ransomware graced the scene in 2004 known as Gpcode. Gpcode also used an RSA encryption that encrypts files until paying a certain amount. The year 2007 had WinLock trending as ransomware. It displayed pornographic images, limiting users’ access to their screen and demanded payment via SMS. The next generation of ransomware are called the law enforcement ransomware, or Reveton was born in 2012. This malware was designed to show the logo or symbols of crime-fighting agencies like Interpol, FBI or local PDs. It accuses its victims of indulgence in different crimes ranging from child pornography to computer hacking.
Other vices include a download of classified files demanding ransom up to $300. As the years go by, ransomware is becoming more dangerous and ruthless, especially with the advent of CryptoLocker. CryptoLocker uses encryptions of military standards to WannaCry and Petya of May and June 2017 respectively. This ransomware with their complex encodings stifles business as well as limit cyber freedom all around the globe.
Types of Ransomware
Different types of ransomware exist based on the extent of their severity. The major ones are as follows.
Screen lockers lock you out of your computer entirely by taking hold of your computer screen. Shutting down the system does you no good as it is starting. An FBI logo or that of the Justice Department appears claiming that illegal activity has been carried out on this system and they need to pay a fine. Victims often forget that these law enforcement agencies don’t collect penalties for unlawful activity forcefully via the computer. Agencies follow appropriate and legitimate routes.
These types of ransomware collect your files, encode them and then asks for a ransom before its release can take place. This ransomware is the most dangerous of all ransomware as your encrypted files may not be inaccessible until paying the money. Sometimes after paying the ransom, the data are still not returned by the cybercriminals, and this is the most painful part.
Scareware involves tech support or rogue security scams. They tend to send a different kind of pop-up messages claiming malware has infected your system. They go further to explain that the only way to eradicate it is to pay a certain amount. This trend continues and sometimes becomes an online disturbance especially if you ignore these messages. Interestingly, most times these are mere scare tactics as the name implies, as your files may be safe.
Protecting yourself from ransomware
Though there are different types of ransomware, the mode of entry into their victims’ cyberspace is not much different. Also, the best way of protecting your cyberspace from ransomware is by understanding how this malware can infect your computer system.
Recently, one of the most popular ways computer systems become infected by malware is via malicious advertising also called mail advertising. Mail advertising uses the platform of online adverts to disburse ransomware with minimal user interactions. They appear as pop-ups even on legitimate sites which are often not clicked and redirects users to criminal servers. This malware is linked to these servers to gather the victim’s system’ details and take advantage of them. All these happen without the knowledge of the victims.
Malicious spam is another way systems get infected; they are unsolicited mail used to distribute malware. These emails contain attachments, word documents or even links to unsafe websites creating an access point for the ransomware.
If the mode of entrance of ransomware into the system is well understood and blocked, the following are steps to taken to ensure you are safe from ransomware;
- Invest in cybersecurity. Get cyber software that can protect your computer from powerful ransomware attacks. Plus they should have features that shield vulnerable programs in your system
- Always create secure backups for your systems files and data daily. The use of external storage devices that can be detached immediately after data backup is a good start. However most recommended is the use of cloud storage that utilizes powerful encryptions. As well as multiple factor authentication for security purposes.
- Your system needs updating. Though it is not still easy to be up to date in a fast-changing tech world, recommending activating automatic updating.
Finally, be informed. Be abreast of the latest facts as regards cybersecurity. Avoid suspicious links and website. Be purposeful, exercise some discipline, discreetness and avoid wandering as you browse the internet.
Linda Rawson is the CEO, and Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, (http://DynaGrace.com) which is a Women-Owned, Small Business. She is also the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts.
Resource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDS_(Trojan_horse); https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGPCoder; https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA13-309A; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WannaCry_ransomware_attack; https://www.symantec.com/blogs/threat-intelligence/petya-ransomware-wiper
Image Resource: DynaGrace Enterprises; http://www.dodlive.mil/2013/10/05/national-cyber-security-awareness-month/; https://pxhere.com/en/photo/540556