What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malicious software that encrypts your computer system and blocks access to valuable information or files until a certain amount of money is paid to the ransomware hacker. Getting hit by a ransomware attack can happen to any person or business, small, medium, or large, and once they have gotten ahold of your system it can result in a great loss of money and time until the system is back up and running properly.

How does Ransomware work?

A ransomware attack encrypts your data, and the hacker holds a unique private key that decrypts it. It is very hard to outmaneuver because it can easily destroy your data if not dealt with very carefully. When you get hit with ransomware a message will be displayed on your screen informing you about the ransomware attack and demanding payment.

When it comes to a ransomware attack it is highly frowned upon to pay the ransom to the hacker. This is because it can encourage the perpetrators to continue targeting new victims. So, if it is ill-advised to give into a ransomware attack why do people do it?

There are several reasons people give in to paying the ransom rather than waiting it out or trying to unencrypt it themselves. Many people simply do not feel they have the option to wait for their system to recover. For instance, if an educational institution were to get a ransomware attack, this would affect thousands of people if not more, and in those cases, the institution would want the attack resolved as quickly as possible. Another reason many people choose to pay off the ransom is that there is far more to lose when the network is down than to quickly pay off a sum of money. When a computer system is under a ransomware attack this can lead to loss of sales opportunities, a damaged reputation, lost customer, client, or investor confidence, and loss of confidential information of your business and/or your clients. Data exfiltration is another large concern which is when hackers can gain access to a victim's confidential information, files, logins, and emails. This typically leads to blackmail which is why companies end up paying the ransom.

Where have we seen Ransomware before?

This is a growing threat to many industries. In the past year, you may have heard of the more recent ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, whose network was taken hostage until Colonial paid $4.4 million to avoid confidential information getting leaked. A software company named Kaseya was also targeted over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. This led to about 1500 other businesses getting compromised around the world. Kaseya was a large opportunity for the hackers because not only do they get into their network, but they also get into the networks of the clients that Kaseya manages.

Four tips to help you avoid Ransomware:

  • Keep your system, browser, and software updated.
  • Use a strong security solution.
  • Back up your data.
  • Be careful of what you download or click.

Although these tips can help to prevent a ransomware attack, sometimes there is no foolproof way to stop it. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a strategic plan in place if it does. Discussing how your IT team would manage the ransomware attack can save a lot of time after it happens, so everyone knows what to do. If you have any questions about how to prepare for a ransomware attack, please call Usherwood Office Technology at, 800.724.2119 or reach out via Linkedin or the submit an inquiry on our site!