Digital Hijacking and Extortion

Digital Hijacking and Extortion

Individuals and businesses alike continue to become increasingly dependent on computers and smart phones along with the data that’s utilised across the various digital channels – for this reason, cybercrime is becoming more and more lucrative. Over the past few years, Ransomware has become the most prevalent and financially motivated cybercrime threat worldwide and is likely to continue with increasing frequency and variation of campaigns.

As the name suggests, ransomware is a form of malware designed to infiltrate a computer system and hold the user’s files or screens hostage until a ransom is paid. Ransomware infects computers the same way as other types of malware, for example it can be attached to or linked from a malicious email, hide on malicious websites or pretend to be useful applications on peer-to-peer networks. After the initial infection, the ransomware attempts to spread to shared storage drives and other accessible systems. If the demands are not met, the system or encrypted data remains unavailable or is deleted.

Regardless of whether the victim is a consumer, small business or a large enterprise, ransomware holds the data that’s valuable to them, and potentially their clients, hostage. As a result, many people or businesses affected pay the ransom without any assurances in desperate hope of regaining access to their IT system.

According to research conducted by Cyber Security Ventures, they estimate that ransomware damages will cost the world $8 billion in 2018. This estimate includes the ransom, downtime, wages, device cost, network cost, and lost opportunities. Whilst the ransom cost may be as little as $800 the overall cost to the bottom line can be significant and for most businesses, the cost of a ransomware attack is too big a risk to ignore.

So what can we do to stop this cybercrime juggernaut?

  1. Back up your data: Cyber criminals leverage the threat of deleting important data, if the data is backed up regularly their leverage diminishes.
  1. Update your software: Ransomware often uses bugs in software which the developers patch through updates – make sure they are downloaded and installed.
  1. Educate your staff: All it takes is for one employee to fall victim to clicking a link in a fake email to infect the entire organisation with ransomware. Ensure your team is aware of phishing scams and know the warning signs of malware. Remind them that it’s okay to be sceptical of emails from unknown senders.
  1. Don’t pay the ransom: The criminals have no incentive to release your files once the ransom is paid, instead, they can demand more money and target your business in future knowing you are willing to pay. Furthermore, by paying the ransom, businesses become a part of the vicious cycle of cybercrime by making it profitable creating growth. There are also websites out there that can walk you through dealing with some of the more common ransomware threats including publicly available decryption keys.
  1. Cyber security: Cyber security: Ensure you have anti-virus software installed on your computers and across your system, it’s much cheaper than a ransomware attack.

Ransomware and other forms of cybercrime will continue to grow – that’s inevitable. The best counter-measure is prevention through education, preparation and cybersecurity.

A smart and safe business installs security on the premises to protect it from burglaries and tells staff how to secure the office before they leave: prevention of cyber threats should be no different.

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