In 2016, ransomware took over as the number one digital threat in the world. These attacks are so successful, the FBI estimates victims paid out nearly $1 billion in ransom last year alone.
As if that's not frightening enough, there's even more bad news. Ransomware attacks are expected to be more widespread in the very near future.
Why ransomware attacks are expected to surge
You may have heard about the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. It is the largest ransomware attack on record, as it infected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries. One reason WannaCry was so rampant is the way it was spread.
Typically, for a computer to be infected with ransomware, the user must click on a malicious link. In the case of WannaCry, it spread like a worm. So if one computer on a network was infected, it spread to all vulnerable computers connected to that network. The attacker exploited a vulnerability in Windows operating systems.
Once a gadget was infected with WannaCry, its files were encrypted and a ransom note appeared on the screen. The attackers demanded $300 in Bitcoin payments to decrypt the victim's device.
This advanced way of spreading ransomware, like a worm, is the reason the number of attacks is expected to surge. It's being dubbed ransomworm.
It's the same as ransomware, except for how it is deployed. Once ransomworm infects just one computer on a network, it can easily be spread to other vulnerable computers on that network.
How to protect against ransomworm
In the case of WannaCry ransomware, the criminals behind the attack exploited a flaw in Windows' operating systems. Click here to learn how to keep Windows up to date and secure.
Also, with ransomware attacks getting out of control, the FBI suggests taking these steps:
- Back up data regularly - this is the best way to recover your critical data if your computer is infected with ransomware.
- Make sure your backups are secure - do not connect your backups to computers or networks that they are backing up.
- Do NOT enable macros - You should never download PDF, Word or Excel files attached to unsolicited emails to begin with. If you do open one of these documents and it says that you need to turn on macros, close the file and delete it immediately.
- Never open risky links in emails - don't open attachments from unsolicited emails, it could be a phishing scam. Ransomware can infect your gadget through malicious links found in phishing emails. Can you spot one? Take our phishing IQ test to find out.
- Have strong security software - this will help prevent the installation of ransomware on your gadget.
Backing up your critical data is a very important safety precaution in the fight against ransomware. It's the best way to recover your files without paying a ransom.
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