Many internet users understand the importance of keeping their devices safe and out of the hands of the cunning hackers that are out there. There are many different risks that internet users face when they are online.
One of the most dangerous threats that our devices can come across is malicious software. There are many variations of malicious software, but there is one that is more dangerous than all other types that you need to be aware of.
Ransomware is the most brutal form of malicious software, which is why it is crucial you grasp what ransomware is and how it works. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about ransomware and why it is such a dangerous form of malicious software.
What is Malware?
Malware is short for malicious software. Malware is one of the most common methods that cybercriminals use to infiltrate their victims’ devices. There’s a wide range of malware that exists in our modern world, and it can range from viruses to spyware and ransomware —which is what we will be exploring further below.
Malware is developed by cybercriminals purely for their personal gain without any mercy towards their targets. Some malware such as trojan viruses and worms can destroy your devices or make them unusable. Others like stealers and keyloggers are used to steal your data and information to allow the hacker to use it to their advantage, such as with identity theft for example.
Although malware has been around for many years it has developed significantly over recent years, and some forms of malware are difficult to identify and remove from your device. Oftentimes malware is quick to do damage, so prevention is better than cure as it can already be too late once you’ve spotted something suspicious on your device.
What makes malware especially dangerous is that anyone can be targeted, and if your device is not prepared to defend against it could cause you some headaches. Moreover, most malware can be installed on a device without the user’s knowledge, so you might not even know about malware on your device until it’s too late i.e. you find that your personal data is part of a big breach and has been posted for sale on the dark web.
Why is Ransomware so Dangerous?
Ransomware is the most dangerous form of malware that exists. This is the last thing you want to find on your device as it will cost you a ton of money. It can also affect your family and friends, or your employees if you run an organization. So what exactly is ransomware all about?
Ransomware is a type of malware that can be used to encrypt important files on your device. Encrypted files cannot be accessed by anyone, these files can’t be moved, and they can’t be transferred either. These files essentially become completely useless.
The only way to remove the encryption is to pay the ransom fee to the hackers after which you will be given a key to decrypt your files. Even if you pay the ransom fee, the hackers can still choose not to remove the encryption from your files, which means that they will take your money and still leave you in a difficult spot. There are many examples of this, which is why ransomware cybercrime is particularly merciless.
Ransomware is especially dangerous when you have important sensitive files on your device that you might need to use. Whether it’s personal files or work files, hackers will target these with ransomware to ensure that you pay the ransom fee. After all, if they were to encrypt files that aren’t important or files that you don’t need, there’s no need for you to pay their ransom fee.
Ransomware doesn’t just stop at files though, and this is where it becomes more relevant for the average internet user. Hackers can use ransomware to encrypt your accounts as well. From bank accounts to emails and even social media accounts you could end up locked out of your own accounts.
How is ransomware installed on our devices?
There are a few different ways in which ransomware can be installed on our devices, especially if they are not secured with the correct cybersecurity measures. The most common method that cybercriminals use to install any type of malware onto our devices (including ransomware) is through phishing scams. A phishing scam is when the cybercriminal sends a fraudulent email to their victim’s inbox urging them to interact with a link or attachment in the email. Once the victim interacts with the link or attachment the malware will be installed on their device or credentials will be stolen on a fraudulent web page leading to invisible account takeover.
Steps to Take Against a Ransomware Attack
It’s difficult to recover from a ransomware attack once it happens, however, there are some measures that you can take in order to reduce the damage that a ransomware attack does to your device. It’s always better to try and prevent it from happening in the first place.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you must always keep an eye out for phishing scams. You should never click on any emails where you do not recognize the sender, or on links or attachments in emails unless you are absolutely sure that they are safe. It’s always a good idea to invest in premium antivirus software that is able to scan files and links before you open them. You should try to keep up with the latest trends in cybercrime and phishing scams to understand what the latest strategies are.
Keep in mind that phishing scams do not strictly have to take place in emails. Phishing can happen anywhere on the internet and can be orchestrated via SMS as well as over the phone. Hackers now also use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to send phishing scams through direct messages. They can sometimes even pose as someone that you might know and trust in order to trick you into interacting with their messages. You could even come across phishing while browsing the internet too. Cybercriminals can hide links on the internet by disguising them as images and icons. Once you click on one of these even if it is by accident, the malware will be installed on your device. Phishing has become quite sophisticated nowadays.
If you have any important files on your device you need to make sure that they are safely backed up. You can either do this with an external hard drive or with a secure cloud backup. If you have your files backed up in a safe space you won’t have to worry about paying the ransom fee to remove the ransomware encryption from your files.