Crypto Ransomware Threats: A Growing Concern

We just wanted to warn our community about some virulent ransomware attacks that are currently circulating. Thus far, none of our clients have been effected, but a wide range of businesses in many industries (including banks, hospitals, and government institutions) have.

“Locky,” “Robin Hood,” “Bart”….you may or may not have heard their names, but the reality is that these kinds of schemes are increasing, and their target is more often than not American businesses.

So, how to protect yourself? First a little background, and then some advice.

What is Crypto Ransomware?

Crypto ransomware comes under the cover of spam emails that arrive in your inbox. When you, the unwitting recipient, open the attachment included with the suspicious email, the malware rapidly encrypts your data, rendering it completely inaccessible. From that moment onward, the only way to access your data is to decrypt it with a private key which is available (you guessed it) only after you pay a ransom. If you refuse to pay, the key is destroyed and your data remains forever encrypted.

This is not a position we want anyone to be in. So, here are some thoughts on how to protect yourself…

How to Protect Yourself From Ransomware Threats and Phishing Schemes

There’s no magic bullet that will save you from crypto ransomware threats such as Locky, Robin Hood, or Bart. However, there are common-sense protective measures that you can take, to keep your information safe.

–Check the identity and origin of emails you receive. Do not open emails (and especially email attachments) from senders you don’t recognize.

–Learn to identify and avoid phishing emails. Phishing emails are often disguised as emails from legitimate sources. Confirm the identity of the email sender by checking the sender’s email address, and confirming it is accurate (and not a fake address).

–Keep spam filters tight.

–Keep all software up-to-date.

–Store data offsite (either on the cloud or external drives that are kept offline).

–In the unfortunate event your data is effected, your information can be restored and you can ignore any ransom demands

–Schedule daily incremental backups (cloud-based backup software can do that)

Perhaps our most important warning is that every new email should be read with some degree of skepticism. If you are ever in doubt as to an email’s authenticity, it is best to check with your IT team before opening any attachments or complying with any instructions.

Social Engineering

Finally, scammers and malware criminals are increasingly using a technique called “social engineering.” This term covers a wide range of ways they attempt to gain your trust and comply with their instructions. Phishing emails may, for example, include your name, personal information, or the branding of a respected company.

You may have heard of the Microsoft “Tech Support” phone scam which has been aggressively targeting home users. This is a similar example of social engineering, whereby the criminal impersonates a Microsoft help desk technician, convincing the victim to allow them to remotely access their computer, download malware and even pay for the service! The wickedness of this scheme is compounded by the degree of complicity required of the victim.

Educate Yourself and Stay Aware

There’s no better time than now to learn about about how to protect yourself and your team from ransomware attacks, phishing schemes, and the range of cyber scams that criminals employ in trying to access your information and steal your hard-earned cash.

To read more about the ransomware threats we mention above, here are a few articles that address the topic:

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/workspace/spam-ransomware-europe-193024

http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/02/locky-crypto-ransomware-rides-in-on-malicious-word-document-macro/

New Bart Ransomware Released By Locky Crew

More information about the Microsoft “Tech Support” Phone Scam can be found below. Some of these articles are on the older side, but unfortunately the scam still persists, with some variation.

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/malwarebytes

 

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