Ransomware – The Cyber Bully on the Block

While ransomware is the new buzz word in cybersecurity, would you believe it that ransomware has been in existence since the 1980’s? The first known ransomware occurred when a man named Dr. Popp sent Trojan-infected diskettes to attendees of the World Health Organization conference and demanded the payment of $189 be sent to a PO Box in Panama. Of course, Dr. Popp was caught and brought to trial…later being declared unfit to stand trial due to the cardboard box he wore to protect himself from radiation.

Ransomware became more mainstream through the years as cyber-criminals realized that it’s easy to monetize and spread ransomware by sending infected email attachments that would encrypt the victims files. But it wasn’t until Q1 of 2015 that cyber-criminals went really big more than quadrupling the amount of ransomware from the previous quarter in 2014. 2016 has been declared the Year of Ransomware by numerous security vendors and as we near the end of Q1 2016, there are no signs that cyber-criminals are going to slow down the attacks.

Now-a-days, it’s hard to read the news without seeing a story about a business, schools, or hospitals being hit with ransomware. One of the more notable recent stories is Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center that had to pay $17,000 in ransom in February 2016 to gain access to their computer systems. But just earlier this week, another three hospitals were hit in a new string of ransomware attacks that thankfully did not disrupt the operations of those hospitals, most likely due to a good backup strategy.

But for organizations that don’t have good backups, once ransomware is activated even the FBI does not have much hope that the encryption can be cracked.

“The ransomware is that good…

To be honest, we often advise people to just pay the ransom.”

Joseph Bonavolonta

Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s CYBER and Counterintelligence Program, Boston office

While it has been recommended that the payment of ransomware should be illegal, that does not offer much help to businesses that are suffering downtime due to a successful attack. Even the FBI does not explicitly tell companies what they should do but rather tells them what options are available and lets the individual businesses decide what is the best way to proceed. So if a business is ransomed, what are the options?

  • Restore a backup of the computer or server – Perfect solution if you actively backup but statistically, only 25% of organizations/people actually do
  • Pay the ransom – Not ideal because it funds cyber-criminals
  • Start over from scratch – Go Gone with the Wind, say “Frankly My Dear…” and start rebuilding your computer/server which is time-consuming and you won’t have any historical data

But before it gets to that point of doom & gloom for the business, there are certain things that business can do to minimize the risk and/or impact of ransomware. And it’s always better to be safe, than sorry!

Tips on how to protect your business from ransomware

  • Educate your employees on how to deal with suspicious emails and procedures for opening email attachments
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails, don’t click on the links, and don’t open the attachments
  • Don’t enable macros on attachments received by email or downloaded
  • Use anti-virus & malware protection – and keep them up-to-date!
  • Keep your operating systems and browsers up-to-date
  • Use a pop-up blocker
  • Download only from trusted websites
  • Click the Window Close Button – don’t click the big, convenient close button in the pop-up window
  • Get Firewall Protection

How Can We Help?

If you’ve been the victim of a ransomware attack, Axiom Cyber Solutions is here to help. Call us at 1-800-519-5070 for expert advice and assistance.

Axiom Cyber Solutions is offering a Managed Firewall, Cyber-Security Protection for Small Business starting as low as $199 per month. Our firewalls contain proprietary ransomware protection to stop ransomware from activating on your network. Call us for more information.  #FightBackWithAxiom