Extortion using ransomware on the rise

Karine BenoƮt | Desjardins Group

Online fraudsters are always looking for new ways to make money. Ransomware is one of the latest techniques.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware. When a person is attacked, the ransomware encrypts all the data on their computer and the fraudster demands money--a ransom--to get it back.

Even though most companies have privacy policies and make an effort to protect customer and client email addresses, email lists can still end up in the wrong hands. When that happens, using phishing to get ransomware installed on someone's computer isn't hard.

Fraudsters send emails that have documents (.doc, .rtf or PDF) attached or a hyperlink in the body of the message. When the user tries to open the document or clicks the link, the ransomware is installed and all the data on the computer is encrypted.

6 tips for avoiding attacks [1]

  1. Ensure all software is kept up to date with the latest patches including Windows, web browsers, Java and Adobe.
  2. Perform regular backups of your data. Ideally, this data should be kept on a different device other than your computer.
  3. Don't open links or attachments in emails from untrusted or unknown sources.
  4. Ensure your anti-virus is up to date.
  5. Consider using a security application from a reputable company on your mobile device.
  6. Don't download or install applications from untrusted or unknown sources.
  7. Never click on pop-up windows that claim your computer has a virus.
Too late? Here's what to do
According to Jean-Yves Riverin, a security advisor in Surveillance and IT Security Operations, you're better off not to pay the ransom for your data. It's not uncommon for fraudsters to refuse to hand over the encryption key, even after you've paid. They might ask for more money and you're stuck wondering if you should pay again and if you'll ever get your data back.

Even if it is too late to get your data back, Jean-Yves says the best thing to do is unplug from the network ASAP. Then mentally prepare to reformat your hard drive from scratch, or hopefully, from a backup. Malware is exactly the reason it's important to regularly back up your data to an external drive and to regularly update the software you use. 
Backups, backups, backups: the key to getting your data back.

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