Unless you have been living in a bubble for the past month, you will be well aware that recently the public and private sector has been under attack from a virus that can, in basic terms, hold computers to ransom until the user pays a fee to release their data.
In the UK the NHS was the most high profile victim, but it is not restricted to the UK, this one virus attacked computers in 200+ countries, affecting companies and businesses of all sizes.
So what exactly is it, what does it do, why isn't it this type of virus being eliminated or stopped..
These are the questions being asked, so here are the answers...
What is the difference between ransomware and malware?
Unfortunately for the victims, unlike the normal malware that is seen pretty much every day, when your computer becomes infected with ransomware, you can often say goodbye to some or all of your data. Once on your PC, it is too late to decide to back it up any or transfer your files! Even though you are told that once you pay a ransom you will get your data back, it is often the case that this does not happen.With normal malware your computer can be reset and in most cases your data can be restored.
Is Ransomware new?
Malware initially surfaced around 1989, when computers started becoming popular, but it wasn't until around 2005 that ransomware really surfaced. As soon as hackers realised they could make money, more were being developed. Every so often one such as 'Wannacry' infects huge organisations such as the NHS and then people really take notice.
How does your computer become infected?
Ransomware is invited by the unsuspecting user when they open a link or attachment on an email. Once opened it encrypts the hard drive, making it impossible to access or retrieve anything stored on there This includes your search history, your saved passwords, pictures, documents and even your music.
I have antivirus software, can my PC still get infected?
In simple terms..YES..Your antivirus software may give a pop up warning saying that the attachment is from an unknown source, but unfortunately they are within emails that have been disguised as an official email from a source such as a bank or insurance company..People then assume that they are safe and open them, bypassing the warning given.
If people are paying a ransom, why can't the money be traced and the hackers stopped?
The current ransomware is called Wannacry and the hackers have asked people to pay the ransom via Bitcoin. The hackers are asking for payments of around £230 ($300) in Bitcoin. Payments are asked to be sent to at least two anonymous Bitcoin wallets. These accounts have been routed through the Dark Web and cannot be traced.
Do hackers really make money from this?
Again in simple terms..YES..Previous reported cases of ransomware have been Cryptolocker, which made an estimated $3 million in ransom before it was removed and then there was Cryptowall that the FBI believe made over $18 million before it was finally stopped.
Why do people pay the ransom if everyone advises against it?
People use their PCs for different things. from accounting and playing games to more personal pursuits... Unfortunately once your PC has been hacked the hackers know everything that you have done, stored and watched. Once the hackers have access to this information individuals can easily be blackmailed for fear of losing clients, money or facing embarrassment.
Can Macs get infected?
Fortunately, if you only have Macs or iOS devices, you're safe from this particular ransomware. However, do not assume you're safe simply by owning a Mac, since malware does happen on Macs as well and with the increasing popularity of Macs i.e. the audience getting bigger, it is almost guaranteed that sooner or later a ransomware designed for Macs will be put into play.
How do you protect yourself?
The best way to avoid this type of attacked on your computer is simply never to open attachments from unknown sources. If you are simply concerned about your own PC and don't have any antivirus, enable the free windows defender on your system. Unfortunately if you have a business that has numerous employees operating on one network, it is often impossible to get them all to abide by the rules you set. If you believe that there is a risk of this happening then you need to ensure that all your data gets backup frequently to a separate source or drive away form your network. If you are in need of this service then please get in touch with this as we can assist.