Computer attacks are becoming more and more common as the years go by, even with the help of user protection programs and software. One of the most popular and difficult to recognize attacks is ransomware, a crime that tricks victims quickly and effectively. In this article, we will talk a bit about this type of attack and share some tips on how you can avoid it.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) that prevents users from accessing their own system and personal files. In order to gain back control over their data, victims need to pay the cyber criminals an amount set by them. Anyone who suffers a ransomware attack is subject to a payment to ransom their computer system and everything it encompasses.
During the rescue process, victims encounter instructions explaining how they can make the payment. The amounts range from hundreds to thousands of euros and transfers are usually made from cryptocurrencies or credit card.
Ransomware attack: How does it reach your system?
Unfortunately, there are several ways to execute a ransomware attack, and it is up to the cyber criminals to choose the way that is most convenient for them. In order to stay alert, it becomes extremely important to know at least the most common methods of implementing ransomware on operating systems, among which:
A malspam consists of a harmless-looking email sent to victims. When opened, this email contains dangerous attachments that, once downloaded, invade the user’s system and block the owner from accessing it. This is the most popular ransomware method, as it allows you to trick victims more quickly and effectively.
Another known ransomware method is malvertising, or malicious advertising, which consists of using online advertising to distribute malware. In this case, the user doesn’t need to do much, just access the Internet and be faced with these kinds of ads to fall into the hands of cyber criminals. Even without clicking on any ads, the user can be taken to dangerous servers where their data is collected and then used for ransom.
- Spear phishing
This attack also uses bulk email as a tool of crime. For example, one of the most common tactics is to send emails to employees of a given company saying that the boss needs them to answer a survey. To do this, a word or PDF document is attached to the email and then downloaded by users. Later, the content of such attachments turns out to be malicious by blocking the victim’s access to his or her data. This method of implementing ransomware is most common when targeting the data of companies and large organizations.
There are other popular ways to get ransomware onto your computer, but the emails that arrive in your inbox and the unwanted ads that pop up while you browse the internet are the most common threats and require your due attention.
What happens after the malware installs?
This type of malware invades the victim’s operating system and usually starts by encrypting all files and data present in order to prevent the user from accessing them. The big drawback is that, in order to regain access to all your files, it is necessary to enter some kind of password that is uniquely designed to be cracked against a payment. Therefore, the attacker sends the payment details for the victim to make the transfer, and in return the victim receives the correct password to open his files again and gain access to his entire operator system.
Can anyone be a victim of ransomware?
Technically yes, however this type of attack is usually directed at people or organizations with great financial power and who would be severely harmed if they lost access to certain data. For example, it would make no sense to victimize a mere student who has little or nothing to offer. On the other hand, large organizations, such as government agencies or even hospitals, need constant access to their databases and would have the necessary capital to pay the ransom. Therefore, they would be more easily targeted by this type of attack.
How to protect yourself from ransomware?
There are some precautions you can take so as not to fall into the attackers’ ambushes, including:
- Create backups of your data and put all your relevant information on a hard drive that only you have access to
- Never click on unsafe links (usually inserted in spam emails or dubious websites)
- Avoid disclosing personal information about yourself
- Always check the sender of emails with attachments you intend to open
- Keep your programs and operator system up to date
- Use VPN services when using public Wi-Fi networks
The online world always finds a way to present us with dangers and drawbacks. Ransomware is just one of many attacks that victimize thousands of users every year. Now that you know this crime a little better, always doubt the spam emails you receive and the dubious websites or advertisements you may come across.