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Ransomware – A Growing Menace

Ransomware has been around for a few years, but lately it’s been making headlines as recent attacks have become more common and has been making headlines.

What is ransomware? The name is very fitting, it involves a piece of malicious code, malware, that hijacks your computer and demands payment in order to get your computer back. A recent attack involved child pornography where a user would attempt to login to their computer and a screen takes over the site accusing the user of having child pornography on their computer. And only by submitting payment to the authorities will the computer be freed up.

This is just one example of a ransomware attack, the attackers can use any number of reasons to hijack your site, another one claimed back taxes owed to the government, once paid the user would get their computer back. Another accuses users of using illegal or pirated software. It’s easy to see how many users were fooled by this and continue to be fooled.

Apparently some $16 million was netted by this scam in a Russian operation. Clearly, no official organization, legal authority would ever hijack your computer if you broke the law and request payment. Payment requested usually is under $1000 dollars.

But many people have been fooled! Just think about it, if you were really engaged in illegal behaviour like child pornography, do you think that a small payment would get you out of it? Payment is usually requested via wire transfer, bitcoin, premium rate text messages, or other online payment services.

If you do get infected, what can you do about it? I don’t know of any services that specifically deal with ransomware but I am sure they are out there. You should at least contact your computer manufacturer helpline and possibly your operating system manufacturer. Symantec has some tips here and a whitepaper on the subject:

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