Cybercrime is on the rise because it works. It’s all about the money.

Attacks are increasingly sophisticated and tougher to defend against.

In February 2016, a hospital in California found itself locked out of its own IT system. Only when a ransom of $17,000 had been paid did it regain access to its network.

This was a classic example of ransomware – software that encrypts your data until you pay the ransom.

Ransomware is typically spread via an email attachment or bad link that masquerades as something innocent. Once the attachment is opened or the link clicked, it encrypts your hard drive, making it impossible to access or retrieve your data.

A cybergang can send out billions of emails and successfully infect one million computers with ransomware. If they request $100 from each infected user and just 10% of the users pay, they can make an easy $10 million.

It’s estimated that just one piece of ransomware – CryptoWall v.3 – has cost users more than $325 million.

To make matters worse, software can infect your computer, allowing it to be used by the hackers to send out billions of phishing emails without your knowledge.

What to do if you’re attacked

Some users decide to pay the ransom. If you decide to pay, DO NOT use your debit or credit card. In many cases, what the criminals really want is your credit card information. Use a prepaid card instead.

A word of warning. Even if you pay the ransom there is no guarantee that you will receive the key to unencrypt your files. In our experience, only about 25% of victims actually get the key they supposedly paid for.

A better approach

We’ve talked before about how to protect yourself from cyber attacks and what to do if you find yourself a victim of ransomware.

There is a simple trick not often mentioned, however. If you suspect your computer is about to be infected with ransomware – turn it off.

When you get infected with ransomware it begins to encrypt your files. To do so, it needs to use your processor and memory. Turning your computer off will stop the process.

Shutting down will not fix the items that have been encrypted, but will stop more from being damaged. Then it’s time to call a professional.

Preventing attacks

Of course, the best defense against ransomware and other attacks is a good offense.

  • Keep your Microsoft security updates up to date.
  • A good firewall is essential. To guarantee that you get the necessary security updates, make sure to pay your annual subscription fee on time.
  • Have good backups and test them. With good backups, all we need to do is remove the virus and restore your files.

Want more protection against cybercrime? Give us a call to discuss how Future Link IT can help.