We said at the beginning of the year that one of the biggest security threats of 2016 is ransomware. So far it looks like we were right, with ransomware infections exploding on home computers, taking down hospitals and other companies, and migrating to mobile gadgets and Macs.
As a refresher, ransomware is a malicious program that sneaks on to your gadget and encrypts your files so you can't open them. If you want your files back, you have to pay several hundred dollars to hackers. It's a scary attack, but it's getting worse, allegedly thanks to Chinese hackers.
According to Reuters, in the past three months, four security companies have helped several major undisclosed businesses cope with sophisticated ransomware attacks. These attacks have locked hundreds of computers using techniques and software that usually only governments have.
According to the security companies, the hackers responsible for the attacks are probably based in China. Since the U.S. and China struck a deal last year not to engaging in economic espionage, U.S. companies have actually seen attacks from China decrease. That leaves a lot of Chinese hackers out of work.
There's speculation that the hackers and hacking groups that China is no longer paying are striking out on their own. In some cases, they might be attacking companies they'd already broken into years ago for spying purposes.
China denies these claims, and the security firms do admit it's possible unaffiliated hackers have stepped up their game or gotten hold of more advanced software. Either way, you can expect these hackers to start targeting more businesses and eventually individual users.
That's why you need to take steps now to keep your gadgets safe. In the past, we've covered three things you can do to survive a ransomware attack. One of those is to have strong security software installed.
Security software can warn you away from phishing scams and malicious sites that deliver ransomware. It can also stop ransomware programs from running and locking up your computer.