Ransomware has been the fastest growing type of cyberattack this year. It's very popular with criminals because it's easy to mass deploy, payoffs can be huge, and with the use of Bitcoin as currency, payment exchanges can be virtually anonymous.
Once your gadget is infected with ransomware, your files are encrypted and the scammer forces you to pay ransom to regain access. You're not going to believe who was targeted over the weekend.
San Francisco's public transportation system was infected with ransomware on Black Friday. Hackers took over 2,000 computers that are used for operations and payments.
The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) was forced to open the gates and let passengers ride for free. The scammers demanded 100 Bitcoin, which is a little over $73,000 for payment.
Each of the infected computers displayed a ransom note that read, "You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted." The note also gave contact information with directions on paying the ransom.
— Colin Heilbut (@ColinHeilbut) November 26, 2016
The MTA was affected all day Friday and Saturday, which means passengers rode for free on two of the busiest shopping days of the year. Operations were back to normal on Sunday, but the MTA hasn't commented on whether it paid the ransom or not.
There was never an impact to transit service, just the fact that passengers were not able to pay for their rides.
Just imagine if this type of attack did affect mass transit service locally. Or even worse, on a national scale. This could be a nightmare for the U.S. travel industry. Scary!
How you can avoid ransomware
It's now clear that ransomware is becoming hackers' go-to choice. Whether you're aiming to protect yourself, your family or even your business, you need a solid plan of action. That's why it's critical that you follow these steps.
1. Stop ransomware at a distance: Your best option to defeat ransomware is to keep it off your computers in the first place. Keeping your operating system and web browser up to date is critical. Security holes in these areas can let hackers bypass your security software to slip files onto your system. Learn how to install the latest updates for Windows, and how to make your web browser hacker-proof.
2. Stop ransomware before it runs: If you end up with hidden ransomware in your inbox hat doesn't mean that the game is over. In fact, there's a simple way you can stop the ransomware before it starts. Don't click anything that looks suspicious.
3. Have solid online security protection: This is a no-brainer. If you use the internet, then you need to have solid internet protection.