Written by Chris Griesemer, updated by Caleb Swadley

By now I’m sure you have heard of ransomware. It is a malicious application that can restrict access to your computer, files and applications. Generally, the only way to regain access is to follow the instructions demanded by this malware. This usually involves paying them through electronic currency, such as Bitcoin. According to Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit researcher Keith Jarvis, a Ransomware program called CryptoWall infected 625,000 victims worldwide, encrypting over 5.25 billion files and collecting $1.1 million in ransom. Last year, 205,280 organizations experienced a ransomware attack, 41 percent higher than 2018.

You can be infected with this malicious software on business computers, personal computers, and even mobile devices. Ransomware can be delivered through numerous means. Unsolicited emails, pop-ups, malvertising (malicious advertising), and social engineering can all be used to install the software on your system. Once the ransomware has started running on your computer, you will be notified that your computer is locked and can only be unlocked once a certain amount of money has been transferred. Amounts are generally scaled to the targeted victim and can range greatly. Individuals often must pay anywhere from $100 to $2000. The largest recorded single payout of 2019 was $600,000 by the city of Riviera Beach City, Florida, according to Heimdal Security.

Here are some tips to help avoid this virus:

  1. Make sure you have anti-virus installed and it is up-to-date.
  2. Keep your operating system up-to-date with the latest patches.
  3. Never click on a link in an email unless you are certain it is valid.
  4. Do not click on ads and always make sure the website you are visiting is secure.
  5. Make sure your computer is backed up properly.

This type computer virus has been around for a long time but has gained substantial momentum in recent years due to cryptocurrency and modern hacking tools. Remember the tips above and continue training yourself, coworkers, family and friends. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call Chris Griesemer or Caleb Swadley at 417.881.0145.