- July 9th, 2017
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Love or loathe modern technology, our computers often hold information on sensitive personal or
financial information. This can include photos of loved ones, college and academic essays, or
financial records such as bank statements. How much would you pay to retrieve a college
dissertation a week before the deadline? Or, a batch of wedding photos from a day that can never
be relived? If the idea of being vulnerable to cyber criminals makes you anxious, take the necessary
steps now so you won’t have to make a difficult decision in the future. Protect your home computer
against ransomware attacks and other viruses. It could be the smartest move you ever make.
So, what exactly is Ransomware? Bloomberg recently described it as the ‘go-to hack’ for cyber
criminals. It does exactly what the name implies. Criminal hackers will take control of a computer
and hold an individual or company or even governmental office to ransom by encrypting files and
locking the user out. The virus is usually transmitted by something as innocuous as the opening of an
email or image. Just the everyday use of your computer can download the Ransomware onto your
network, and once it is in, it can quickly spread to other computers in the network. Like any virus, it
doesn’t discriminate. Unfortunately, without proper protection it can infect a family’s home
computer just as easily as it could take down a government’s sophisticated computer network.
In recent weeks, Ransomware attacks have made news headlines around the world. In May, the
WannaCry Virus hit computers not just in American but also in Europe and all other parts of the
globe. It encrypted files, locking users out and causing mayhem everywhere, including huge
difficulties in FedEx, NHS (UK) hospitals, and the German train system. The hackers demanded $300
worth of the digital currency Bitcoin for each user to get access to his files. Just a few days ago, a
second global Ransomware attack occurred. It is not yet fully clear as to who was behind the attack,
nor what the motives of the cyber criminals were. What is clear is that the virus has spread rapidly,
causing devastation in its wake.
One other certainty is that these will not be the last Ransomware attacks to make the headlines.
Sadly, as became apparent with WannaCry, simple steps could have been taken to protect
computers against Ransomware. Backing up critical files and keeping anti-virus software up to date
are simple procedures that can provide the needed protection against an attack. Moreover, it is
critical to ensure that your anti-virus software has Ransomware protection. It was too late for many
affected by WannaCry.
Sometimes people fall into the trap of not taking the steps to protect their PCs. They tend to think
along the lines of: ‘I just use the computer for Facebook’, or ‘for Skyping the kids’, as if using the
computer for simple tasks will somehow cause it to be overlooked by a virus. Or even if they pay
attention to the news stories about the attacks, they may see them as remote threats: ‘A rogue state
or criminal gang would not target me’. And the problem is that statement is true; they do not target
you alone. They target everyone who leaves their computer’s ‘door’ open.
Like most criminals, Ransomware hackers prey on the weak and the vulnerable. In this case, they
prey on networks and systems that are open to attacks. Recent attacks have hit computers using the
outdated Windows XP, a Microsoft product, but they are not limited to this operating system alone.
If you live in a ‘bad neighbourhood’, you take steps to protect your home. The same principle should
be applied to your PC. Cyber-crime, as we have seen time and time again, has created a ‘bad
neighbourhood’ in all corners of the globe, no matter which operating system is used. If you do not
have sophisticated anti-ransomware software, then you should get it now, before it is too late.