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Ransomware grows up

24/08/16

Ransomware grows up

Permalink 08:44:00 am by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

It seems that ransomware is in theassurgent; not only are the reported (tip of icebergof course) cases on the increase but the deft aplomb with which the customer service representatives of the crooks respond to requests for technical support indicates an industry that has come of age. The bad guys have a reputation to protect and they realise that by increasing their stature in the pit they inhabit they can gain a higher reward rate - folks who pay up.

It used to be the case that best practice was to never pay the bad guys who encrypt your family photos, work documents, or invaluable address book as you could never be sure whether you would actually receive the private key to unlock them and anyway paying only encourages them. The thinking is now that paying is better as the chances of them risking loss of reputation is that high, and the technical skills that good that the best outcome can be achieved by negotiating - albeit with a very weak hand.

More accurately, paying up is the second best option. Spending the same money on prevention is surely the better way to avoiding the stress that comes from one of these attacks. There are two avenues to prevent the problem in the first place, both are old chestnuts that offer protection far beyond the tedium that considering them may engender.

  1. Don't do insecure things. That means having a sensible password policy (aka a password manager program); never clicking links without serious consideration; never opening attachments to email willy nilly; assuming any unsolicited call/message is sent for the sender's benefit (typically that equates to being at the receiver's cost); encrypting data at least where it is held separate from a secure location.

  2. Backup your data. The current versions of Windows and Macintosh operating systems come with excellent software built in. Excellent in this context means that versions of files are held so that you can easily revert to the day before the problem arose. Yes, ransomware merchants are that sneaky that they will often lurk undetected for a time to enable backups to be taken after infection by their poison. Permanently attached backups are fine as an initial layer of protection, but the less frequently written copies held away from the computer are also worthy of the effort required to maintain them. Finally on this item, your backup is only as good as your ability to use it - test, test, test.

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