Ransomware: You Could Be The Next Victim, Develop a Defense Now
It's amazing any of us can cope at all with life in the modern world. Our senses are assaulted 24/7 with advertising and marketing messages almost everywhere our eyes fall or our ears hear. Don't believe me? Look over your screen, the manufacturer's name and all they stand for is written somewhere, isn't it?
With all the distractions we face daily around the clock it's only a matter of time before even the smartest of us slips up and lets a bad actor into our lives. And in the digital age, they are so slick and well prepared for the assault that they're disrupting our lives by separating us rather seamlessly from what we need the most, our own identity and information. You won't know until you're put on frightening notice with words like this on your screen:
YOUR FILES HAVE BEEN SECURELY LOCKED UP OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. YOU MUST CONTACT US ONLY TO ARRANGE RELEASE BACK TO YOU WITHIN 24 HOURS OR RISK PERMANENT DELETION AND TOTAL LOSS OF ALL YOUR DATA.
Most of us would, of course, react in horror. Our lives if not our bodies have been kidnapped, stolen temporarily, and held for ransom. What mindless link did we click, was it that video someone DM'd you on social media you watched? Has anyone you usually trust asked you for your birthdate or worse, social security number over the phone or in an email or text?
Recently, there's been an uptick in the kidnapping of all your data via digital means. Hackers spread a software virus into your system that literally locks it all up and only they hold the key. The only message on your lifeless screen is like the one above and a way to contact the kidnappers.
Last Monday, the Office of Motor Vehicles in the state of Louisiana got hacked. As you know, no driver's license or other business has been conducted for a full week. The press release today states OMV offices were just reopening after a ransomware attack.
On November 12 in Texas, the Port Neches-Groves school district was hit. The school district lost access to files on all computer systems and indeed the hackers shut down the school's entire network. The school district allowed its insurance company to step in and negotiate with the hackers. The Texas Rangers, FBI, and other local and state law enforcement are involved.
Sadly, most of these criminals will never see jail as they're not typically in the United States or any other region where we could extradite and prosecute.
Remember, if you ever get a message on your screen like this, they don't really care about your information. Of course, they'll glean your bank account and credit card, so you'll have to make those contacts to shut all your cards off, but the bottom line is the hackers want money. They don't care about your photos or documents.
Most of these are modern-life common-sense. But remember these people are slick and some of their attempts to steal from you will look just like the people and websites you trust: Amazon, social security, your bank, that it's really easy to get got.
Until now, most ransomware criminals didn't fool with individuals. Small and medium-sized businesses have been the preferred targets. When they get into a state system they not only extort the state, but they now have the basic information on millions of citizens.
First, if you are a business, don't panic. Do not pay the ransom. Contact your insurer and local law enforcement. This is a serious crime, and even if you quickly fished up a credit card and paid the ransom, you're not guaranteed to get your data back.
Do not provide any personal information when answering email, unsolicited phone calls, texts, or other messages. Phishers will try to trick you into installing malware on your device (they can get your phone, too).
Use reputable anti-virus software and firewall and employ filtering and content scanning on your mail servers in and outbound. Also, always make sure your systems are up to date with relevant patches and updates.
Don't let the crazy hectic modern life make you a victim.