Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly advanced as they come up with new techniques to extort money from their victims. The most prolific of their creations are the ransomware viruses which take over computers and corrupt the containing data using complex algorithms. After these viruses are done with the infected PC’s, different documents, video and audio files, pictures and other files become inaccessible. Most commonly such infections spread through spam emails, in a form of an important attached document or archive. Nonetheless, you should not cross out the possibility of getting infected while regularly browsing online: the malicious script can also be implemented into random download buttons, links or pop-up advertisements. In fact, the extent of ransomware infections is continuously increasing and for now, there seems to be no stopping to it. The US officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have released a warning about such attacks in which they encourage regular users as well as larger companies to take appropriate precautions to avoid such attacks:
- If you run a company or are responsible for the cyber security of an organisation, make sure your employees are well informed about the potential cyber threats and instruct them about the virus prevention possibilities.
- Depending on whether you own a computer for personal use or are connected to the network of computers at work, always make sure you or your employees use professional antivirus software and run frequent system scans.
- Since ransomware viruses often use Word Macros function to activate itself, disable it in all of the Microsoft Office applications, to eliminate the risk.
- Maintain your software and regularly check for new updates.
- If possible, refrain from using administrator accounts and only employ them if completely necessary.
- Finally, backup your important data regularly and use an external storage to keep your documents safe.
In its announcement, FBI has also indicated that through the years of 2015 and 2016 the ransomware viruses have taken hold of millions of personal computers, targeted hospitals, schools as well as computer networks of numerous small and major businesses. The cyber criminals demand large sums of money to be paid in order to retrieve the encrypted data. Unfortunately, as the FBI’s Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor notes, successful file decryption is a rare case scenario when dealing with these fraudulent infections. It is a much more common practice for their evil-minded creators to leave their victims stranded with the permanently encrypted data and continue the development of new viruses using the extorted money. It goes without saying that we should all take FBI’s recommendations into consideration if we want a safer future of the Internet.