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Ransomware is still on the rise and hackers are stealing tons of money at the expense of people’s data.

Both institutions and individuals have fallen victim to this vicious malware.

Ransomware is now the most profitable malware in history. A total of 9,500 people pay ransoms every month according to a recent CISCO report.  In spite of the virus’ popularity, many people are unaware of how to identify and avoid falling prey to it.  For those who don’t want their data held hostage, read on to learn the basics of ransomware!

How It Works

Ransomware is a type of virus that cuts off all access to the user’s data until the victim pays a set ransom.

Hackers distribute the virus through phishing emails or faux websites called angler exploit kits.  Phishing emails contain infected files  disguised in the form of a link.  If clicked, the virus immediately downloads onto the user’s computer or smartphone and encrypts all files.   All backup files and folders on the system are erased.

If a user stumbles upon an Angler exploit kit, a virus on the fake website will scan the user’s web browser.  After detecting any security holes, the kit will impart the ransomware virus.

A message will appear on the victim’s screen that names the price the user must pay to retrieve access.  Most hackers prefer to be paid with Bitcoins, a type of digital currency that allows both people involved in the transaction to remain anonymous.

Victims

Since the creation of ransomware, hundreds of people have seen the daunting message on their screen.  Yet hospitals, universities, and companies have been the main targets.  Large institutions contain confidential data.

Hospitals have been the main ransomware targets because the stakes are higher.  Patient’s lives and critical data are at risk.   Hospitals can’t afford to wait or take a chance, and pay the ransom without hesitation.   The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17K to recover their hacked servers back in February 2016.  Besides stealing money from innocent people, hackers also sell retrieved data on the Dark Web.

How to avoid

Avoid clicking on any link in an email from an unidentifiable contact.  People should be wary of clicking links from trusted social media messages or emails.

Protect your confidential data from any type of virus and back-up all irreplaceable data on an external hard drive or to the cloud. Encrypt all back-ups for an extra layer of protection.

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