Ransomware: Do You Ever Think You're Being Watched?Submitted by S. F. Ehrlich Associates, Inc. on March 31st, 2017
March 31, 2017
It was Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, who pointed out: “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.” As it turns out, that’s especially true of your computer.
Ransomware is a relatively new term to the American lexicon. It pertains to a criminal event whereby a hacker places malware onto your computer and begins encrypting all of your data and files. Upon completion, you receive a ransom note, requiring you to make a payment to be able to access your files. If you fail to make the payment within a prescribed number of hours, you’ll never receive the encryption code to retrieve your data.
You may be surprised to learn that there’s honor among thieves. Ransomware is a business, and MONEY Magazine1 reports that once the ransom is paid (in bitcoin), the criminal entity will work with you to help you, to include providing on-line service agents. After all, they don’t want to take your money and run; it’s bad for business. (I think the pirates in Somalia share the same philosophy: release the hostages once the ransom is paid, so they’ll pay it the next time knowing that you’re an honest hostage-taker.)
To protect yourself from becoming the victim of ransomware, MONEY recommends you take the following steps:
- Get yourself some backup: Whether you use a hard drive or on-line service, be certain your files are backed-up on a continuous basis. In addition, even if you use an on-line service, such as Carbonite, you should also regularly back-up critical files onto a UBS drive or an external hard drive. (Even on-line services aren’t immune from hacking.)
- Stay current: Make sure your computer’s operating system, browsers, etc., are all current. Don’t ignore notices that talk about upgrades and security patches. Older programs aren’t safer; they’re far more vulnerable to being hacked.
- Inoculate against viruses: While anti-virus programs aren’t fool-proof, they do add another layer of protection. Make sure a program is loaded on your computer, and confirm that it automatically downloads upgrades as soon as they are available.
- Handle e-mail with care: Everyone used to fear those e-mails from Nigeria that promised lottery winnings. (I once even received a call from a friend to ask if it was legitimate. And no, she didn’t respond. I hope.) Now, hackers use far more sinister ways to entice you to open attachments or upload your information to a website that you think is legitimate. NEVER open e-mail attachments, even from ‘known’ contacts, unless someone verbally tells you what they sent to you and when. And NEVER open a link on an e-mail, regardless of how legitimate it may look. All you’re going to do is give hackers personal information and/or a way to get into your computer. And now you know what they’re going to do next.
1 Rock, Andrea. “Cybercrime Gets Personal.” Money, Mar. 2017.