Spring is now in full swing and most of us have turned our attention to getting serious about spring cleaning. While yard work and organizing the garage are ideal tasks for this time of year, hackers too have spring cleaning on their mind – but of a different kind. Their idea of spring cleaning is to clean out your bank accounts.
Imagine waking up one day, rubbing the sleep out of your eyes, and booting up your laptop. Expecting to see a Twitter feed or Facebook profile, instead you’re greeted with a big red image, demanding that if you don’t pay a hefty ransom to an unknown party within the next 24-hours, everything you know and love on your computer will be erased, and gone forever!
Welcome to the world of “Ransomware,” the newest, hottest way that underground criminals are pulling cash from the pockets of innocent victims and using it to fund their clandestine operations. The stories are endless, but one that catches my eye is when Hackers recently struck the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center with a highly successful (from their point of view) targeted Ransomware attack.
The hospital got off lucky. After three weeks of operating without crucial computer programs, the Los Angeles hospital paid a 40 Bitcoin – $17,000 US ransom to restore its systems so that it could get back to being a hospital. If hackers have no morals about hitting a hospital, we can just imagine how disposed they are towards the rest of us.
How about the online retail company that got nailed just as their Christmas sales were heating up. They choose not to pay the ransom and instead worked to repair their systems themselves. While they were among the very few who manage this, they were down during their biggest sales season. What was their cost in lost customers, revenue, goodwill, and reputation?
How does Ransomware work? Deceptively simple! First – the hackers encrypt the critical files on your computer (with no hope of recovery), then ask you for money to decrypt them. Alas, just because you paid the ransom, there is no guarantee that you’ll get your data back.
Small business computer networks and consumer computers running Microsoft Windows software are the low hanging fruit and are a hackers dream come true. It had long seemed that Apple computers were immune, but news recently broke of the first Ransomware targeting Macs. If you are a Mac user, your immunity pill just ran out.
If You Have Backups Of Your Critical Files You Can Laugh Off The Demand For Money
Wouldn’t you love to be in that position? With all the options that are now available for reliable backup, you have no excuse for not backing up your files.
Don’t become a victim of spring cleaning.
Bob Milliken is the TheITGuy@CascadiaSystemsGroup.com and specializes in helping businesses with their IT needs. Connect with him at 604.270.1730.