Ransomware a Growing Threat to Cyber Security
On the 12th of May 2017, cyberspace was placed into total turmoil as a new threat was discovered hijacking the system of small to large companies and organisations in over 100 different countries.
The threat uses exploits and hacking tools previously released by the Shadow Brokers.
This group is responsible for developing the technology that was later on used in creating the ransomware called WannaCry/WanaCrypt0r 2.0, that caused the biggest attack of its type recorded, taking over and locking thousands of systems in the span of 48 hours.
What we know
So far the mastermind behind the WannaCry Ransomware hasn’t been identified yet and the attack has also been halted through an accident by a security blogger by purchasing an unregistered web address that seems to be the source of the call back for each new system that the malware infects.
Unfortunately, this turn of events is just temporary and the operators of the ransomware have then started to remove the kill switch and is probably moving on to a new unregistered domain to continue its onslaught.
Like any other malware, WannaCry or Wcry for short uses email and infected websites as a way to spread itself unto unsuspecting victims posing as a harmless inbox email or free advertisement.
It sometimes starts urging the user to download and extract a “.zip” file, once the zip file is extracted the program begins to take over the system, encrypting and encapsulating all information on the system locking out the owner of the PC along with it.
The operator of the malware demanded all infected system a fine of $300 in Bitcoin for the restoration of access to the user, one of the more troubling facts about the whole ordeal is that after three(3) days, the amount of money being demanded is doubled and if no action is done within the following seven(7) days the perpetrator threatens to delete the entire system of the infected PC.
What is Ransomware?
Now you may think ransomware is a new threat, right? In reality, it has been a constant security threat for quite a while now, in fact for over a decade now or more, ransomware has infected a number of systems and still do so today.
Taking all sensitive data for the sole purpose of gaining monetary compensation in the most heinous of ways that not only hurts the users being attacked financially but also their reputation.
There are tons of ransomware that have populated the internet over the span of time, but the two most known types are the following:
displays a full-screen message that prevents a user from accessing their PC, indicating that the user must pay a fine/ransom money for the restoration of the control of the unit. Paying the fine though doesn’t guarantee that the user will get access to system ones the exchange is complete.
In this type, the operator will opt to change all files in the system and securing them by encrypting so that the legitimate user will lose all access to it.
So far the threat targets mostly big organisations and are of low or little threat to home users, but even so you must still be vigilant in avoiding this malicious act, for as the saying goes,
“Prevention is always better than the cure.”
Ways to Prevent the Growing Threat of Ransomware From Infecting Your System:
Update your OS (Operating System)
Wcry mostly targets old and unsupported versions of the Windows OS, so if you want to stay clear from this threat upgrading your system to the latest release of Microsoft’s Windows 10 OS should keep your system from being infiltrated or compromised.
Another method, if you don’t want to upgrade your system, is by using the latest security patch released by Microsoft for the old OS to handle this new threat.
Always Backup all your Files
In the chance that your system has been compromised, having a backup could come in handy. By restoring your unit to a state before the installation of the malware into your system you can easily remove the malware without harming any of your important files and data.
Be Wary of Suspicious Emails and Spam
Cyber-criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in the manner of which they target and attack a user, sometimes even the most innocent looking email could pose a treat to one’s security.
Always scan an email before opening and always check the address from where the email was sent before clicking any links or downloading any attached files.
Avoid Website That Has Been Flagged as Unsafe
This should go without being said, sites particularly adult-oriented ones are prone to viruses and phishing scams. Typically your web browser should warn you, beforehand, if a site is safe or not. Take this as a serious warning and keep your system from being compromised.
Using a Different Operating System
This may not be known to many, but MS Windows isn’t the only operating system available. It’s competition the Apple Mac uses it’s own OS the OS X, which is Unix based.
Linux has tons of flavours to choose from and is also quite user friendly.
One of its variant, Ubuntu, is probably the most well known and most used due to its slick design and modern format.
Another great feature of most Linux variant is its the ability to be installed to a system as an alternate OS by the mode of dual-booting this gives users the option to switch between the OS installed at login time.
Always Update your Windows Defender/Anti-Virus Software
For the optimal detection of malevolent elements lurking around your system, always check for the latest update of your installed anti-virus and make it a habit to do a deep scan of your system at least ones a week.
Be Knowledgeable and Be Informed
Ignorance is one of the many ways cyber-criminals use as a tactic in infiltrating a system.
As a user it is your responsibility to be the first line of defence for your sensitive files and data, keep up with the trends and educate yourself when it comes to cybersecurity to be always one step ahead of scammers and infiltrators.
Ransomware is but just one of the many types of online security threat out there. You may read more on the other types by checking this article here.