Ransomware Attacks on the Rise: Here is How to Stay Safe

Prayank

Ransomware has been a threat on the internet for more than a decade now, but in the past one year, the cases of successful ransomware attacks have risen manifold.

To give you a gist of the threat, ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts media, document and other files on the target PC and access to those files is only granted once the attacker’s ransom demands — usually ini bitcoin — are met.

In 2016, attackers demanded $1077 on an average per ransomware attack which is a steep increase from $294 average demand per attack in 2015.

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, in addition to the rise in the money demanded to free a computer of the ransomware infection, there also has been a 36% rise in attacks — from 340,000 in 2015 to 463,000 in 2016.

“More and more attackers are jumping on the ransomware bandwagon and creating new ranswomware families or modifying existing ones,” Symantec’s report said.

The report also states that 69% of the ransomware attacks were targeted towards individuals while the rest targeted enterprises.

Symantec found that one in every 131 emails contains a malicious link or an attachment, which is the highest rate found in the past five years. The rate was one in 220 in 2015 and one in 244 in 2014.

USA tops the list of ransomware detection by country.

“In many cases, the victim would receive a spam email designed to appear like an invoice or receipt from a company. The email would be written in a way to lure the recipient into opening a malicious attachment,” the report added.

The US remains the highest targeted country as 64 percent of attacked US citizens pay up the ransom — making them a soft target for the attackers.

The increase in attacks can also be attributed to the booming digital black market wherein ransomware kits are being sold for as little as $10.

This makes it easier for other cybercriminals to conduct a ransomware attack.

Symantec also found out that with the growth of IoT, DDoS attacks against them have also gained momentum and are increasing every year.

How to Stay Safe Against Ransomware Attacks?

Being vigilant at all times while clicking links sent to your email or social media is the key to staying safe from ransomware, which are easy to dodge if you’re aware.

Emails with attachments that look suspicious — especially if they’re Microsoft Office files which might contain malicious macros — should be deleted instantly upon receipt.

Keeping the software of your PC/smartphone and the antivirus you’re running on it updated ensures that you’re safe from any newly discovered security vulnerabilities.

According to Symantec, users should ‘never use links in an email to connect to a website unless you are sure they are genuine’.

It’s always a good idea to use the address bar in case you feel the link in the email is suspicious to ensure that you land up on the authentic site and not a lookalike one — which has been geared up to burn a big hole in your pocket.

Paying up is an option too, but beware that only 47 percent of the victims who pay up received their files back.

We’ve also listed out 5 tips to prevent your android device from getting hit by ransomware which you can check out here.

If you’ve been hit by a ransomware attack already, here is how you can get rid of it.

Other than that, if you wish for third-party support your endeavours to help fight ransomware, read on below.

Tools to Combat Ransomware

Popular antivirus service such as Avast has come up with their decryption tools for Windows and for Android to help people tackle the growing menace of ransomware.

These tools are free to use and cover a wide variety of ransomware, though some of the new ones might not be covered, but it still can give you a start.

No More Ransom is a website which provides news about the latest developments in the ransomware ecosphere as well as directs users towards tools that can be used to fight these threats.

The website is a joint effort of Netherlands Police, Europol, Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security.

If you’re looking for a tool that offers protection to your Windows PC in real-time, then CyberReason Ransomfree is the answer to your needs.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise and spreading awareness against such threats on the internet is the biggest way to safeguard against them.

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Prayank

Written By

Prayank

Bike enthusiast, traveller, ManUtd follower, army brat, word-smith; Delhi University, Asian College of Journalism, Cardiff University alumnus; a journalist breathing tech these days.