Ransomware and Crypto Viruses. Understanding the threat and how to protect yourself

Joe Justice at 580 WCHS

On Tuesday, August 9, I was invited to appear on 580 WCHS’s Ask the Expert show to talk to their audience about ransomware and crypto viruses. I took the opportunity to inform the audience about the threat and to paint a realistic scenario of the real and present danger these viruses represent. Following that, we discussed some ways that businesses and organization can protect themselves and services provided by Advantage Technology that can prevent attacks or recover from attacks after they happen.

We started the show off talking about traffic being slow getting into the studio and giving some introductory information but quickly got into our discussion on ransomware. Right off the bat, I introduced several key statistics about ransomware:

  • Over 18 million dollars were paid to ransomware thieves between April 2014 and June 2015.
  • There were more than 6 million detected ransomware attack attempts in Q4 2015.
  • 50% of all malware are now ransomware attacks.

You can hear the entire show below or get it directly from SoundCloud.

The scenario I then present is one that happens every day, where you open your computer and see that all your important files, from Word Documents to PDFs to accounting databases, are gone and replaced with encrypted files. On your desktop is a txt file that informs you that your computer has been infected with a crypto virus, and all your files have been encrypted. The file has a series of steps you need to follow to pay a ransom via Bitcoin and then the attacker will restore your files.

We then discussed how this is becoming more and more common and that even the radio station has been a victim of this type of attack. I was quick to point out how easy it is to become a victim, explained that it is nothing to be embarrassed about and unpacked an actual event where it happened in a very understandable way.

How did we get here?

After painting this scenario, we went on to discuss how we’ve gotten to this point where viruses have become such a direct, extortion threat from international crime syndicates. The simple answer is the advent of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. Because this type of attack is without question a crime, the criminals need a totally untraceable form of payment and cryptocurrencies are like digital cash. While cryptocurrencies are certainly used for many of legitimate uses, they have enabled on-line criminals to flourish with these type of extortion schemes.

How do you protect yourself?

At Advantage Technology we have several tools that can help you protect yourself, we discussed those next.

  • Dell SonicWALL – The SonicWALL is an appliance that is installed as the front-line of defense between your network and the Internet. It is a Unified Treat Prevention appliance that filters incoming and outgoing data, analyses it and stops known threats.
  • Anti-Virus – These are must have programs for end-user protection. If you are outside of the network or have files that are brought in from the outside, the computer is vulnerable. We have several anti-virus solutions we use and recommend based on individual circumstances.
  • Backups – While there are a lot of backup solutions available today, it is important for businesses and organizations to get a backup that is designed to adequately restore data in a timely manner. If a crypto virus infects your network, it could lock up terabytes of data. Our backup solutions are designed for large amounts of data and rapid recovery.
  • Advantage Remote Monitoring – This is a service that continually scans your servers and workstations to alert you to vulnerabilities and threats. It’s an affordable and easy way to manage and monitor your network to stop threats before they do too much damage.

At Advantage Technology, we also have experience in paying these ransoms and can help if you find yourself infected. Call us now if you have any immediate need at 866-793-8232 or request to Talk to an Expert.