NOTE: I want to give you a bit of a warning before I start this article. My writing style is generally up-beat, jovial and fairly casual. Don’t let this style mask the fact that today’s topic is very serious. Please know that this article is written in a spirit of urgency and importance.
O.K. Now on to the article…
Computer “viruses” really started back in the 1980s with the Apple II and Macintosh systems, although they essentially were unknown to the general public. It wasn’t until the dominance of the IBM PC and Microsoft’s MS-DOS system in the early to mid-1990s that virus threats became somewhat common knowledge. If you’re like most computer users, you’ve been “burned” by one or two painful virus attacks over the years, but nothing too traumatic.
In fact, many of us have become used to the general concept that cyber criminals do exist, but we have so little direct experience with them that we tend not to even think twice about cybercrime. We just blissfully go about our business.
Well times have changed (at least for the present and near-future). “Ransomware” is the new undisputed heavyweight-champion of cybercrime. Its right-hook is military-grade encryption and its uppercut is untraceable cryptocurrency (usually Bitcoin). Alarmingly, attacks have spread around the globe since 2014 and are steadily rising.
The scam is diabolically simple: encrypt all your files (with a level of sophistication that makes it all but impossible to decrypt using technical trickery) and then demand an untraceable ransom payment for the delivery of the decryption keys. In the past, cyber-attacks used to do great harm mostly by costing you time. Now they are taking your time AND your money! This must stop.
The main point I want to make with this article is a painful one to express: Of course do all you can to prevent an attack (just like you have done for years to prevent all the other viruses, malware, etc.), but you should plan as if you will be attacked. Why? Ransomware so far has the cybersecurity industry (and the FBI) baffled. Remember, the number of successful attacks is rising year-to-year. It appears that we can’t wholly rely on even the most robust, up-to-date endpoint security software to guarantee protection against this threat.
Of course no one wants to have to pay a dime to these criminals. The key is in the planning. It’s all about having a good disaster-recovery plan and a very solid backup. Quickly restoring your network from backup is what saves us from having to shell out our hard-earned money to bandits.
We have written previously about disaster-recovery and backup, and please consider today’s article as a strong reminder of the ongoing importance of disaster planning. One day the ransomware problem will be solved. In the meantime, we continue to join our IT colleagues in the daily fight against this new scourge.
This article was written by Tony Valle on 03/29/16 at 1:30 PM