Ransomware FAQs That You Need to Know
Ransomware is a malware that locks an infected computer or encrypts its files (converts the files into an unreadable form). It then demands a ransom from the victim to let go of the system or decrypt the files. The use of ransomware has been steadily growing over the past few years, with hackers significantly upgrading their tools for attacks. Below you will find seven ransomware FAQs you must know to prepare yourself for threats.
How long has ransomware been around?
It is often believed that ransomware is a new phenomenon. However, this could not be more wrong. The first usage of ransomware can be traced back to 1989. AIDS Trojan is known to be the first ransomware virus; it was created to target the attendees of a World Health Organization’s international conference on AIDS. Although this malware was not technologically advanced and was taken down without much effort, it became the forbearer of all the ransomware families that followed.
What are the different types of ransomware?
There are two primary variants of the ransomware malware:
- File Encrypting Ransomware – encrypts the data (all types of files including pictures, word docs, spreadsheets, PDFs, videos, etc.) it can find on the computer that it infects.
- Screen Locker Ransomware – Locks the screen of the infected computer and renders it useless.
Incidences of file-encrypting ransomware are more common than screen lockers. This is typical because attackers want their victims to use their computers in order for them to pay to unlock their encrypted data.
How does ransomware spread?
The most commonly used method used by attackers to spread ransomware is through email. These emails often contain attachments that are ransomware malware. Visiting compromised and infected websites can infect the user’s system with ransomware. When ransomware infects a victim’s computer, it can remain dormant without ever alerting them of its presence. It is only when the ransomware displays its ransom note demanding a sum of money that the user will then realize they have been infected.
Are ransomware creators selective about their victims?
When it comes to trying to extort money out of people, anybody is a fair target. If you are using a computer and connect to the internet, then you too are a potential victim. And this could be a blogger sitting in a restaurant accessing the free Wi-Fi and working on a blog or a big retail organization.
Why is ransomware a difficult malware to handle?
What makes ransomware difficult to combat is the technology it uses to encrypt files. Earlier, more primitive ransomware families used an easy-to-break encryption method. However, modern-day ransomware uses a much more complex method to encrypt the victim’s files. Here, criminals have two things – a public key for encrypting the files and a private key for decrypting the files. It is the private key that a victim needs to buy to decrypt the files. Without this key, the decryption is impossible.
Should you pay the ransomware’s ransom?
It is strongly recommended never to pay the ransom as paying extortionists only encourages them to continue their malicious activities. On top of that, it is never guaranteed that you will actually get your files back even after you have met the ransomware’s demands; after all, you are dealing with crooks with zero morale.
How to prevent ransomware?
Due to the fact that it is impossible to decrypt any files without the private key, preventing a ransomware infection is the only proactive solution to combating it. Below are some simple security measures to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks:
- Never open emails sent by unknown, unwanted or unexpected sources.
- Beware of phishing emails which try to bait you into clicking their links that lead to a website or to downloading an attachment.
- Always install security updates for your Operating System and programs on your computer. These updates fix security weaknesses and prevent malware from exploiting them.
- Regularly backup your files. Remember to disconnect the Internet when you are backing up on a hard drive. Unplug the drive before you go online again.
- Install an antivirus that can prevent ransomware from infecting your computer.