Ransomware is everywhere. I’ve talked at length about the ransomware attacks that have literally shut down health care computer networks. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. A TV station out of Oklahoma reported the rise in ransomware attacks targeting police departments, and PC World told of a toy maker that has been hit by a new ransomware called CryptXXX.
As Vadim Kotov, senior security researcher with Bromium, told me in an email:
Ransomware is not going anywhere. It’s a perfect crime tool, with black market logic -- easy to implement, high ROI. We’re going to have to learn how to live with it, so backing up data to external drives on a regular basis must become everybody's habit.
We may have to learn to live with it, but that doesn’t mean we are doing a very good job at making the necessary adjustments for potential ransomware attacks. ESET released a study looking at consumer understanding of ransomware, which I believe does affect enterprise as well. After all, if your employees don’t know how to deal with ransomware on their personal devices, will they be able to take the steps to prevent an attack on work devices (and then, too, there is the whole BYOD issue to worry about).
I was not too surprised to find that a third of the respondents didn’t know what ransomware was, nor was I surprised that nearly two-thirds said they didn’t know if their devices had a security solution that could address ransomware. What did surprise me was the confession by 31 percent who said they have never backed up their files – and 85 percent said they wouldn’t bother to pay the ransom to have those files back.
This study comes as the FBI warns that the threat of ransomware is at an all-time high and likely to get worse. We know that cybercriminals will keep improving on any technique that works, and ransomware works.
For that vast majority who won’t pay for their encrypted documents, the FBI supports you, according to NetworkWorld, quoting FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor:
Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—we’ve seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom. Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cyber criminals to target more organizations, it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And finally, by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.
When it comes to ransomware, prevention is key. You can take steps to better protect digital data, Stephen Cobb with ESET wrote in a blog post, and those include using a comprehensive security suite and being aware of phishing email. But most importantly, make sure those files are backed up regularly so if the worst case scenario does happen, you don’t lose anything important.
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba.