Drum roll please…we have made it to the last day of 31 Days of Spooky Scary Internet Safety Hacks!
…and as they say, LAST BUT NOT LEAST is today’s topic: Ransomware.
If you like Podcasts and you like stories about techie stuff, then you will love Dark Net Diaries...and if you want to get introduction to the criminal world of ransomware check out Episode 44 called Zain. It is absolutely mind-boggling and terrifying to learn about how complex and yet diabolical a ransomware scam is. Here is a quick transcript of Dark Net Diaries explanation of what a ransomware is:
Ransomware is a special type of malware. It’s kind of new and different compared to other malware. While most malware is quiet, downloading silently in the background, hiding itself from the victim, ransomware is the opposite. The moment it installs on your system, it announces it’s there in the loudest and boldest way possible. Ransomware locks down your computer completely, rendering it unusable. The purpose is to shout out that is has taken over your machine and until you pay a fee, you’re not getting it back. There are so many stories right now about businesses and government departments that are getting hit with ransomware and it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Russian railways got hit, banks, hospitals, governments, towns. The mobile phone operators got hit. Universities in China were hit. FedEx got hit in the US. Telefónica in Spain, and Renault in France. They’re all infected and their data was held ransom.
Scary right? What is really scary is that the criminals/predators behind ransomware don’t just go after corporations. They are also attacking small businesses and everyday average people like you and me. Why? Because we don’t have access to fancy I.T. Departments and there are a lot more of us out there. So even though the ransom gained from the average person is small, the volume and the ease of forcing the crime makes up for it.
On day 7 we talked about viruses, day 11 we debated malware, and on day 22 we carefully checked out worms so we have already warned you about clicking on unknown email links, avoiding social engineering attempts, and clicking on dodgy popups….which are all ways ransomware gets into your devices. The most effective way criminal are able to extort money out of the general population is to embed their ransomware within porn sites that are (sadly) frequented by millions of users. Once clicked on the code burrows it’s way into your system, and locks you out with messages like: “We Have FOUND CHILD Porn On Your Device. FBI has been Notified. You have 30 minutes to pay our ransom” Most folks won’t get help, because they don’t want to admit to being on a porn site. They just want this thing to go away. So they pay up.
Solution to Ransomware?
- Don’t click on strange messages or emails or attachments
- Don’t click on suspicious links. Use the mouse hover test to make sure you are going to the right place. Better yet, open a separate tab and type in the website yourself.
- Don’t click on sketchy ads, or websites offering something free that seems too good to be true…it is.
- Install and update all of your security software and use 2 factor authentication everywhere (yes this adds a step and can be a pain…but it is still faster and easier than having to rebuild your identity or recover stolen bank accounts)
- Make sure all devices are protected by a reputable anti-virus software and that you are running scans and updating the virus data base at a minimum every day.
- Backup your devices to separate locations, such as removable hard drives. Note: anything you backup to the “cloud” can be hacked as well. Only put data in the cloud that you are willing to lose at some point due to hacking. “The Cloud” is just another name for “someone else’s computer” on the public internet.
- We are all on Wi-Fi networks which makes it necessary to have a firewall protecting your home network and on your computers.
- Be aware that most virus infections occur when someone is using a device in a hurry, multi-tasking, is stressed, angry, or distracted. I know it is a lot to ask, but take frequent breaks and try to limit distractions while online.
- Teach your children not to click on every ad and “free” game offer they come across. In most households this is a major source of viruses and ransomware. The offer of “Becoming a Millionaire” by clicking on a dodgy gambling sites pop-up ad is irresistible to most children. For any device that the children use, set the security options on the browser and anti-virus to “maximum” (since the kid’s love to use grandma’s and granddad’s devices too, give them heads-up to do the same at their house).