What’s New in the World of Ransomware

In the IT support world, ransomware was the big cyber-security story of 2016 and probably will be in 2017 as well. Why? It’s the first effective cyber-extortion tool. Previously malware has caused problems, enabling thefts of proprietary data and created launch platforms for other attacks and malware, but ransomware provides a way for cyber-criminals to become the highway robbers of the information superhighway.

Ransomware has become such a large threat because of its two core factors. One, it is typically delivered via crafty social engineering methods that are tough to prevent with existing anti-malware tools. Secondly, it takes the same state-of-the-art encryption designed to add security and uses it effectively (and potentially permanently) to encrypt victims’ data.

2016 saw these three trends that make us think we’ll be dealing with ransomware for a while:

1. New Sophistication in Social Engineering

Network user education is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection, but the emails carrying the payload are getting more sophisticated. They used to be spoofed messages appearing to be from trusted entities such as UPS or FedEx, but there’s been an increase in attempts that seem to come from friends or specific business colleagues of the recipients. We all have to learn to be suspicious of emails that seem to come from friends or even from within our places of employment!

2. Ransomware-as-a-Service

There are ransomware kits available online, enabling anyone that wants to ignore the risks of criminal prosecution to try their hand at distributing ransomware to extort money. Ransomware kit creators earn money by taking a cut from the distributors of their ransomware, and as RaaS becomes cheaper and easier to find, it has become more mainstream. By enlisting a large network of distributors, ransomware has spread to more victims, which creates the  bigger potential for ransomware profits.

3. More Platforms are Being Targeted

Windows-based PCs were the initial platform (an easy target due to such widespread use), but ransomware and other malware are targeting many other platforms. Mac users are now being targeted, as well as other IP-connected devices such as smartphones and televisions, many of which have little to no security on them.

There’s still no sure-fire prevention for ransomware infection, but a combination of technology and education can reduce the likelihood of infection, and downtime within your business and create an environment where an infection can be contained, and then utilize a rapid recovery solution to minimize the harm.

If you would like to learn more about Ransomware, and how to protect your business, you can view our video on Ransomware. If your business wishes to receive further education and training, you can contact us for more details!

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