One of the newest ways for hackers to exploit your personal data is through the use of software attacks known as ransomware. The purpose of ransomware is to extort the victim for money.
Ransomware is a malware variant that prohibits the user from accessing their own files or network, using any one of several different methods. Once the user can no longer access their files, a pop up appears which explains that their computer is being, essentially, held “hostage,” and for a fee, they can regain access to their information.
The technology behind ransomware is evolving at an exponential rate, and as the software grows to be more sophisticated, more hackers are finding it to be a lucrative way to take advantage of individuals and organisations.
How does ransomware get onto a computer?
There are numerous methods used by hackers to infect a computer with ransomware. Many of these methods resemble traditional phishing attacks—posing as a member of your contact list, for example, or as a utility company or bank. The message sent could have a link to a website that would automatically download ransomware onto your computer, or they might include an attachment via email (such as a “form” the target needs to fill out) which contains hidden ransomware.
In the event of an attack
One thing you should do if you’re attacked with ransomware is notify your local law enforcement and fill out a police report. While the police may be able to do very little in terms of finding the culprit themselves, they can pass your report on to agencies that can use the information to help prevent future attacks.
In terms of protecting your data and devices, the most important first step is to remove the affected computer from your network, so that the ransomware can’t spread to your other devices.
Removing the ransomware itself is typically not difficult, but recovering the ransomed data might be another story. That’s because hackers today are using the most recent (and powerful) forms of encryption. However, if you choose to pay the ransom, be aware that in many cases, hackers do not restore your data.
The best thing you can do is to prevent the situation from occurring in the first place, by ensuring that you have comprehensive recent backups of your data stored separately from your computer.