What Is Ransomware? – A Short Guide

Thanks to the rapid development of information technology, hackers have been able to come up with extremely sophisticated and effective digital threats that you should be aware of, and ransomware is definitely one of the most dangerous ones out of the bunch.

Do you want to educate yourself on the topic of ransomware? If that is the case, then you are in the right place! In this article, you will find a lot of useful information on ransomware, ranging from what ransomware is and how ransomware attacks work to its most popular variants, such as CryptoLocker, CryptoWall, or TeslaCrypt. Moreover, you will get to read about the biggest ransomware attacks in history and the ways in which you can protect yourself from such attacks such as investing in GDPR consulting . Check it out!

What Is Ransomware?

The word “ransomware” is a combination of “ransom” and “malware.” The first part of the term, “ransom,” is self-explanatory. It means that your files are being held for ransom! Generally speaking, ransomware is a type of malicious software that prevents you from accessing your computer system or your files and demands payment from you for their release.

Ransomware can be categorized into two different groups based on how it works. Web-based ransomware attacks your computer through the web browser by exploiting vulnerabilities in outdated web browsers, plugins, or other software. File-based ransomware infects your system through other applications. For example, it can be attached to an email or a file downloaded from the Internet.

Most of the time, file-based ransomware is distributed through spam emails. The emails usually pretend to be about taxes or travel deals. Some of them ask you to open an attachment that contains a malicious executable file. The attachment can also be a fake Flash update or a codec required to view video files. Once you open the attachment or run the infected file, a ransomware infection is installed on your system.

The next time you log in to your computer, a message will appear telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and that you have to pay a ransom in order to get access to them. Usually, the demanded amount is in Bitcoin, due to its anonymity and ease of use.

As you can see, ransomware is a very serious threat that can completely destroy your PC if you do not know how to protect yourself. That is why you need to keep reading this article for more tips!

How Does Ransomware Work?

Generally, ransomware will search for all the files on your hard disk drive. It will encrypt them with an encryption key and then display a message asking you to pay a ransom before it releases the encryption key and allows you to use your files again. Sometimes, attackers will remove the shadow copies of your files so that you cannot restore them from backup copies. This makes the situation even worse because you will not be able to get your files back unless you pay the ransom.

When it comes to file-based ransomware, it can encrypt everything from documents and photos to music and videos. When it comes to web-based ransomware, it will lock up all the files stored on your website and prevent you from accessing them unless you pay the ransom.

Some ransomware variants encrypt your files using asymmetric methods (with public and private keys). This means that you will not be able to decrypt files on your own. Most of these malware programs have a self-destruction mechanism that automatically deletes all the decryption keys after a certain period of time if they are not paid, so do not think that you can contact the developer and negotiate some sort of deal!

In some cases, malware developers do not delete files but just lock them so you cannot open them. If this happens, there is always a chance that somebody might find a way to decrypt them in the future, so do not give in! However, if you want to speed up this process, you should pay the ransom. The only downside is that this may encourage other cyber criminals to create similar malware in the future.

Which Systems Are Most Affected By Ransomware?

Although ransomware attacks can affect any platform (such as Linux or Mac OS), Windows computers are still one of the most popular targets for ransomware developers due to their popularity around the world. Microsoft’s operating system has been around for decades and it runs on almost 80% of all desktops. However, newer versions of Windows are much safer than older ones due to improved security measures such as Exploit Protection and Control Flow Guard. As for mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, they are also vulnerable to attacks via phishing messages or infected apps that can install malware without the user’s knowledge or consent.

How To Protect Yourself From Ransomware

Now that you know what ransomware is, how it works, and which systems it affects the most, you have to learn how you can protect yourself!

Backup Your Files

The best way to avoid any data loss is to make backups of your files regularly. If you do not have any backups to restore your files from, then you most probably will be forced to pay the ransom. However, if you have a backup, you can restore your data from it and continue working as if nothing happened.

To backup your files , you can use a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. However, if you have a lot of documents and photos, this might not be an option because cloud services have limited storage space. In this case, you should consider buying an external hard drive where you can store everything.

Keep Windows Software Updated

One of the easiest ways to prevent file-based ransomware attacks is to keep all the software on your computer up to date. If your software is outdated, it might contain security vulnerabilities that malicious programs such as ransomware exploits in order to infect your system. Therefore, make sure that you apply all software and Windows updates as soon as they become available.

Beware Of Suspicious Links And Files

If you get a message from a friend or colleague that contains a link to a website or a file that is asking you to open it, make sure you check the email address of the sender before doing so. It might be a fake email address made to look like somebody else’s in order to trick you into opening the attachment or running the executable file with malicious code inside. After all, cyber criminals are becoming better at creating professional-looking emails with realistic content.

Also, think twice before opening any attachments or links that come from unknown senders or downloading apps from non-official app stores. These files may contain malware that will try to infect your computer without your permission. Some of these malicious programs may be disguised as Flash updates, codecs for viewing videos, or even pictures and wallpapers. So if you want to avoid ransomware attacks, make sure that you do not give into social engineering techniques used by attackers!

Use An Antivirus Program

A good antivirus program is one of the best ways to protect your PC from ransomware attacks. However, you need to make sure that it is updated regularly because many malware developers try to bypass antivirus engines by changing their code frequently. The best antivirus programs out there are Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Bitdefender Internet Security, both of which can detect file-based ransomware and prevent it from encrypting your files.

Do Not Download Any Programs Or Apps Without Checking Their Reputation Or Verifying Their Source First

In general, do not rush when installing programs or apps. Thoroughly research the reputation of the developer and carefully read what other users say about the software product before installing it on your system. Also remember that if it sounds too good to be true (for example, free apps or pirated software), then it probably is!

Watch Out For Phishing Attacks!

You should also be aware of phishing attacks because they can trick you into entering your login credentials on fake websites or downloading infected files from phishing sites. Therefore, if you receive suspicious emails asking for your login details, do not click on any links or open any attachments! Instead, delete them immediately.

Use A Password Manager To Create Complex Passwords And Store Them Safely

If you use the same password for every account, then hackers can easily get access to everything on your computer system if they find out the password for just one account. That is why it is very important for you to use different passwords for each of your accounts and make sure they are complex enough so that it would take a long time for hackers to crack them. You could use a password manager such as LastPass or KeePass 2 to save all your passwords in one place securely and safely.

Use Two-Factor Authentication When Possible

Two-factor authentication means that besides entering your username and password, you will also need to provide an additional piece of information (a code sent to your mobile phone) in order to log in to your account. This makes it much harder for attackers to gain access to your account because they will need your username and password AND your phone.

Use A Virtual Private Network (VPN) To Protect Your Privacy And Online Security

A virtual private network (VPN) is a digital service that allows you to connect to the Internet anonymously and securely. It encrypts all the data that you send and receive online, so even if your computer is infected with malware, a hacker will not be able to get your login credentials or sensitive personal information. The only downside of using a VPN is that your connection speed might be slower than usual. However, if you want to protect yourself from ransomware attacks, it is definitely worth it!

Summary

There is no doubt that IT and the internet become more and more developed each day. Not only this, but almost everyone uses it these days. Either for work, study, or personal reasons, and that leaves a lot of people open to malware threats. Malware is extremely dangerous and not a threat that most people think will happen to them. This is especially true for big companies or businesses as the people behind the attacks know that they will pay big sums of money to get their files and information back. Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself and your company. There are so many security options out there to ensure that your information or files stay safe and you should pick which ones are right for you based on your individual needs. Hopefully, after reading this article, you are more aware of what malware is, how it works, and how to protect yourself against it.

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