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Ransomware – Cybercrime on the Rise

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Dependency on the Internet

Today’s society is heavily dependent on both the ability and use of technology. From work, to home, to pleasure, the Internet has become a way of life and we are all interconnected by the Internet of Things (IoT).

When our router goes out at home we struggle to remember what we did before Wi-Fi. Or when the network fails at the office, we are suddenly unsure how to continue operations or communicate. Yet, imagine if you lost more than just Wi-Fi connection; imagine you lost everything on your device.

Losing Everything

This is the fear everyone needs to be aware of. Remember that budget worksheet you have been tracking all year? Gone. Remember those 22 pages you started for your dissertation? Also gone. What about that report you had due tomorrow to your boss? Yes, you are going to have to redo the last two weeks of work.

Every Word, Excel, PowerPoint, paint, PDF document, etc. is now locked and unable to be opened. Well, it's not completely lost -- you can regain access to your files for a small fee, or ransom. You have just been hit with what is known as ransomware.

Ransomware is a growing problem that is surfacing more often these days, and many people are still unaware of its existence. To be honest, I was oblivious until yesterday.

Ransomware: a type of computer virus or malware that restricts access to the infected computer system and then demands that the owner of the infected system pay a ransom to regain access to the restricted files.

Firsthand Experience

It did not happen to me, but it did happen to one of my students.

She was surfing the Web and doing some readings for the next day’s class, when her computer started to act funny. She decided to take a break and go get something to eat. When she returned, every one of her files was locked and had been changed to an html extension. When she clicked on the files, the pathway directed her to a website to where she could “pay a ransom to receive a decryption password” to gain access to her files.

Happening More Than Often

This malware has the ability to encrypt more than just the documents on your standalone computer. If your computer is linked to a large network, ransomware could make its way to all documents on the network and encrypt everything. A 250-employee non-profit company had over 75 gigs encrypted in a ransomware incident.

This is becoming more common than not. A new survey published by security firm Malwarebytes revealed that 41 percent of U.S. businesses had encountered between one to five ransomware attacks in the previous 12 months

So, while you are surfing the Web, be careful of what sites you visit, what links you click, and what documents you download. This may seem like common sense, but even IT specialists are having a hard time stopping the spread of this advanced type of malware.

Resources

The FBI offers up information on how to protect and prevent from becoming infected by this type of malware, as well as what to do if you do become a victim, here: FBI: Protect Yourself and Your Organization.

Adam Herndon Adam served ten years in the United States Army primarily in the Operations and Physical Security realm. His tour allowed him to serve in the DC Metro area as the Operations for a Military Police Company and a Sniper/Observer team member for the Military District of Washington's Special Reaction Team, Hawaii as Operations for a Brigade Combat Team, and Fort Leavenworth as the Operations for the Department of Emergency Services as well as a Physical Security Specialist. Adam now works for the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, where Critical Thinking and Group Think Mitigation are taught in hopes of bettering the decision making process and the development of better plans and ideas.