Aside from the Novel coronavirus, the only news that has been hogging the spotlight is the recent spate of cyber-attacks. We’ve only gone past the first month of the year, but entire companies, industries, and even local governments have already fallen victims to malicious attacks on their systems. These cyber-threats come in the form of ransomware, a malware that has been around for years but has been very active in the last weeks of December up until January. A good number of establishments and their systems have been under threat as user information is bound to be compromised if they do not succumb to the demands of these attackers.

The recent attacks in cyberspace have been brought about supposedly by what is called ransomware. And yes, it does appear threatening as it sounds, as not only do these programs wreak havoc on an entity’s systems, the name further suggests that there is a sort of criminal activity with a ransom demanded in exchange for the malware to not inflict further damage.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and launch into full panic mode, let’s get to know the enemy first. What is ransomware, in the first place? What is this menace that has been making headlines and has caused even big businesses and governments to stir?

Ransomware, All You Need to Know    

Is ransomware just like any computer virus in existence? Not particularly.

The first ransomware, known as PC Cyborg or AIDS, was created in the late 1980s. PC Cyborg would encrypt all files in the C: directory after 90 reboots, and then demand the user renew their license by sending $189 by mail to PC Cyborg Corp. The encryption used was simple enough to reverse, so it posed little threat to those who were computer savvy.



Ransomware Rises Anew

Now, you might say that ransomware has been around the block for quite some time, so why is it scarier in its resurgence? That’s because utility companies and other industries that hold private information of its clientele and customers have become the subject of the latest attacks. Of course, when confidential information has been compromised, public interest is heightened.

The file-encrypting malware—variously referred to as Snake or Ekans (not the Pokémon)—first appeared in December 2019. Dragos notes in its report that the ransomware threat appears to be “relatively straightforward” as it encrypts files and shows a ransom note on the screen, requesting payment to return control of computers. But there is something darker about this malware.



Control Systems of Industries Have Been Targeted

Just how dangerous is ransomware? Anyone using any utility – that’s everyone (unless you live in a cave, which won’t allow you to read this) will be compromised now that the ransomware Snake or Ekans has also targeted utility firms.

Cyber criminals are launching ransomware attacks that are specifically targeting industrial control systems (ICS) in what researchers say is the first instance of file-encrypting malware being built to directly infect computer networks that control operations in manufacturing and utilities environments.



Professional Advice: Don’t Engage

Ransomware attacks, as the name suggests, target companies with information that cybercriminals will reveal unless they receive ransom they demand. So, the question now is, should those under a ransomware attack give in and pay?

When it comes to ransomware attacks on municipalities, paying hackers isn’t the right solution. First, there’s no guarantee hackers will return sensitive data. Second, there’s no guarantee cybercriminals won’t leverage and monetize the data anyway, returned or not.



Ransomware and You

Finally, what should you do when ransomware attacks?

But you can limit your losses if you take precautions before someone tries to attack you. Those precautions can include protecting your networks and computers from being attacked, preventing the attack from proceeding and allowing you to recover if the attack was successful.



Along with enjoying the benefits of the quantum leaps in technology, having to deal with cybercriminals is one of the challenges we must face, unfortunately. Another is having to deal with problematic hard drives or other storage. Come and visit this page and free yourself from data recovery woes.