Like everyone else who uses the internet, traders are at risk of experiencing cyberattacks from hackers and other criminals eager to gain access to their computer systems and data. Traders are at especially high risk during these ransomware attacks because ransomware attackers typically gain access to more than their personal information. They access client data as well, which can lead to nearly unimaginable financial losses, damaged reputations, and even the permanent loss of clients.
Ransomware is one of the most dangerous tools used by cybercriminals. Read on to learn more about the hazards of ransomware and how to protect yourself against them.
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware attackers use specialized malicious software — decryption malware — to access files on their targets’ computers. They may access only one computer, or breach an entire network. Attacks often occur in the evenings and on weekends, especially when an attack is focused on a company or employee of a company, and IT and security staff are unavailable. The ransomware typically starts by shutting off all security software. The intended victim might suddenly experience system lag during the attack.
Once ransomware takes over a system (be it personal, business- or government-related), it then locks down the computer or network, or heavily encrypts all files to prevent a user, system administrator or any IT or security staff from accessing the system, network or files. The ransomware then displays a message on every infected computer that tells the victim or victims the terms of the ransom. The ransomware attackers demand payment in the form of cryptocurrency, as it offers anonymity for the destination address, before a certain deadline passes. Otherwise, the company or other entity risks permanent lockout, or the public release of their data.
Types of Ransomware
Many ransomware victims experience an attack caused by phishing ransomware. In this scenario, the victim opens an email from someone they think is a legitimate sender. They download a malicious attachment or click a link, and the ransomware software automatically downloads to their computer.
You might also surf the internet and download “malvertising” ransomware when you click on an advertisement or use an advertising network. If it’s been a while since your computer has been updated with new software patches, cybercriminals can access your system with an “exploit kit” when you visit a website that exploits software flaws and loopholes.
You may also have heard the term “locker ransomware.” Traditional locker ransomware scenarios involve cybercriminals locking an entire system, and then issuing their ransom request to unlock it.
They might also use double extortion ransomware to lock the system and copy all of the data, so that they can make more money by threatening to release it.
In some instances, cybercriminals may require you to pay for decryption keys to decrypt one or more files, instead of unlocking the entire system.
A new type of ransomware, also sometimes referred to as crypto ransomware, involves a crime known as "cryptojacking."
Cybercriminals use the ransom to distract you from their long-term plan. They restore your computer, network or files after you pay to regain access, but they use other hidden software that they place on your computer to run a cryptocurrency miner in the background. As a result, it may seem like they’ll only receive a one-time payment from you — but in reality, they’re able to continue making money from your device over time.
What Happens After a Ransomware Attack?
According to Security Tip (ST19-001) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, a targeted individual should contact their local FBI or Secret Service office to help them. If the ransomware attack happens on a business system, you should immediately contact your firm's IT department or security office.
Preventing Ransomware Attacks
The good news is that you can reduce the risk of potential computer inaccessibility because of a ransomware attack. You can start by following simple and basic security practices.
Always use antivirus, firewall and other security software to help protect against ransomware attacks. Encrypt files when saving them, and back up everything daily to some type of non-networked storage. Be sure to also download the latest updates for your computer’s operating system, security and other important software to prevent criminals from using loopholes they find to gain easier access to systems.
Verify an email message’s sender before previewing or downloading attachments — or before clicking on links that might take you to malicious websites. When visiting websites, always verify that the URLs perfectly match trusted sites — and that they contain no strange misspellings — by hovering your cursor over the links first before clicking on them.
Lastly, whether you're at home, or at a separate workplace, always make sure that you follow password safety and security practices, such as regularly changing your passwords and opting for two-factor authentication whenever possible.
As you can see, it's incredibly important that you protect your private and/or organizational data and finances from this type of ransomware attack. There's never any guarantee that cybercriminals will unlock a computer after you pay a ransom.
Additionally, as noted, hackers may mine your data before shutting the system down, which means that they might use it to steal your identity, release your personal or client data online or commit other types of crimes. When you maintain awareness about ransomware and similar attacks by reviewing recent news updates regularly and following recommended tips, you have a better chance of protecting yourself, your co-workers, clients and even the people you love from this serious and life-altering crime.