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Ransomware Attacks Increase

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Tuesday October 30, 2012 )

A number of Australian businesses have been the victim of ransomware attacks co-ordinated by organized crime gangs.

Ransomware is malware that prevents access to or encrypts files on a victim’s system. In order to get the lock/encryption removed a fee must be paid. Sometimes the “pay” message will be in the guise of coming from an authority, such as the Police, and the fee portrayed as a fine for activity the user may or may not have engaged in. Other attacks have used a Microsoft cover, stating the person must pay to have their copy of Windows re-validated.

According to this ABC report, the attacks can be even freakier in that the user’s computer webcam is switched on remotely, giving the impression the victim is being monitored.

Ransomware is big business it seems. According to this Wikipedia entry, a single 2010 outbreak of WinLock netted the perpetrators around $16 million. In the recent Australian incidents, $3,000 was demanded, increasing by $1,000 a day until paid… and some businesses paid the demand. In August, attacks in the USA via a variant of malware called Reveton demanded $200.

Ransomware attacks aren’t new – they date back to the late 80’s – it’s just they’ve become more refined.

Can you imagine starting your business day and having this happen to you? It would make me feel like vomiting.

What if you pay the extortionists and access isn’t restored? What other information might the culprits have grabbed?

Aside from checking to ensure your antivirus program is always up to date and having other security measures in place, it’s another good reason to run regular backups; even have a standby system that you can switch over to in the case of an emergency such as this.

While having to maintain a level of vigilance that some might consider paranoid may be annoying and time consuming; being a victim of this sort of thing would be even worse.


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