Ransomware: The threat of the new age and everything you need to know about
With the internet playing a vital role in our lives, most of us have restricted ourselves to the rectangular screens and the four walls of our house. Most of our mornings start with checking the feeds of our social media accounts and so does our day ends. With the increasing conversion of everything from offline mode to online mode, crimes have also started to be conducted online. The internet is a vast place. With all sorts of advantages that it has in place for us, it also comes with certain disadvantages that are carefully crafted to hide in the underbelly. Today, in this article we will be discussing this new type of crime that has been pretty successful in shaking people to the core and take everybody by surprise.
Ransomware is a different type of malware that encrypts the files stores in the victim’s laptop or computer or any other device which they use. These viruses are planted in various ways in the victim’s system and later the criminal demands money in return for giving the victim’s files back. Upon realizing that their system is not working properly, the victims receive the threat along with the demanded money which is usually in bitcoins in order to avoid tracing. These criminals put a lock on the victim’s system which can be unlocked using a decryption key. After the victim transfers the money which often ranges in hundreds and thousands of dollars’ worth of bitcoins, the victim is given instructions on how they can use the decryption key and unlock their system. There are a number of ways through which this ransomware can come in contact with your system.
How it works?
Most often, this ransomware is attached as a mail or image at the end of an unsuspecting email. When the victim opens up the mail, it may seem very normal and regular. The problem, however, begins when the victim decides to click and open the attachment. Once the unsuspecting victim downloads and opens the attachment, the criminal tracking the ransomware takes over the control and attacks the whole system. Unaware of all this happening, the victim leads a normal life until he receives the ransom call and realizes his computer or the infected system acting up. The ransomware gives the criminal access to all of your files including pictures, files, and basically everything that is in there. Some of the most common things that the criminal does to the victim’s device include encrypting all the files in the device, thus making the system inaccessible to the victim. All the files are locked with a special mathematical code, without which the files cannot be decrypted.
One of the most common types of ransomware is called the police ransomware. In this type of ransomware attack, the criminal claims to be a person of authority and states that he is a member of a law enforcement agency. The accused proceeds by saying that he is shutting down the victim’s computer or any other system because he has identified the presence of pornographic content or pirated software in the system. He later demands a fine still pretending to be the law enforcement agency. The criminals tend to adopt this method in order to avoid getting caught as people are less likely to report this incident because of the lies that have successfully trapped them in.
Another type of ransomware activity takes place when the criminal threatens the victim to share the personal data that the victim had stored in his computer or any other device over the internet. He then demands the ransom, the failure of which will lead to him sharing the files over the internet. This often puts the victims in a compromised position as they have no other option but to pay the ransom and free their device from the criminal who installed the ransomware. Although it sounds very easy and cute, ransomware is very complicated and not at all easy to plant or hack.
Ransomware and corporate companies
Bigger companies should always stay alert as being affected by ransomware can cause them a great loss and may even lead to them having to shut down the business. According to reports published in 2018, cybercriminals had taken extreme advantage of ransomware and were successful in stealing an amount as big as 8 billion euros by 2018. By 2019, the number had gone up as high as 24 billion euros. In just one year, these devilish masterminds stole over three times the same as of the previous year. Now, after reading this, a question may arise in the mind of our dear reader that is what must be the reason behind this sudden and rapid increase in the ransomware sector. The answer to this however complex question is simple. The answer lies in the brain of the hackers. These criminals or hackers have found just the right technique and the information of the victim that is needed to be able to break into their work laptop or computer. Hospitals have been very common victims of these types of attacks. Ransomware attacks prove to be deadly for the big companies that have all kinds of important files and documents running in their servers and networks. It poses to be a big problem when all of them suddenly get encrypted and cannot be accessed by the workers. When such cooperate companies are held hostage by these criminals, they will often threaten to leak their personal data online. They demand a big sum of money in the form of bitcoin, only after the acquisition of which, the files are released by the hacker.
The earliest incident of ransomware traces back to 1983. The earlier ransomware was easier and the victim could just change the names of the files in order to release them from the hacker who had taken control over their computer or laptop. However, this new type of cybercrime did not stop there, hackers started growing and creating difficult ransomware which could not easily be overcome by the victim. This not only assures pure money for the criminals but also a lot of stress for the authorities of the countries.
How to fight this cybercrime?
As the ransomware cannot always be avoided as it does not ask for our permission to enter the system, we must always be alert and read things carefully before opening or downloading any kind of document or app. Different protection mechanisms should be used by big companies in order to prevent their systems from contracting this virus. The staff of the company should be thoroughly trained in order to further avoid this ransomware at a personal level. The employees must be aware of ransomware and its disadvantages. Since one of the most common entry points of the ransomware is through email, spam messages should be thoroughly filtered and unnecessary mails should be avoided. Spam filters can also be installed in the system to clear out all the attachments such as documents, videos, photos, files, etc. The companies or individuals who have already been victims of this criminal activity, they should make sure that their systems or laptops or any other device which was earlier infected should have regular backups available. This prevents from not being able to access the files if the ransomware attacks again. The backup should be done manually or automatically at a fixed time by the system itself. Big companies should invest in good cloud storage in order to safe keep their important files and documents. Anti-ransomware scanners are also available online which helps you scan the mails or the system for ransom.
With as much as a 39 percent rise in the ransomware attacks happening all over India, our country ranks second after the USA amidst the countries majorly impacted by ransomware threats. Joining India in this race with not being much behind in Sri Lanka, Russia, and Turkey. They have ranked third, fourth, and fifth respectively. Once the ransom gets in the computer, there is no way of removing it. Either you have to pay the amount which is demanded by the ransomware criminal or go to the police and file a complaint against the accused. Most people decline from going to the police in the fear of their files and personal data being shared online by ransomware criminals or hackers.
Ways to prevent from getting scammed
There are many ways through which we can prevent ransomware crimes from happening to us. These steps not only help us in staying alert but also improve our defences from all kinds of cyber-attacks.
- One must always keep their computer or laptop or any other device up to date and backed up in order to reduce the hit if the ransomware occurs.
- One must not give any kind of access to the software or install new software before reading the terms and conditions properly. One must always check the full working of the software before downloading in order to assure authenticity.
- One must always install antivirus software in their systems in order to prevent ransomware. They must also download whitelisting software that prevents applications from getting executes.