Computer viruses are, by their nature, malicious software, but perhaps none is more malicious than the recent rise of what is known as the ransomware virus. With estimated tens of thousands of American already affected, this scheme was estimated to have made $1 billion a year for the criminals working behind it.
Ransomware is, at its core, a virus that takes the crime of extortion and adapting it to a digital world. When a host computer gets infected, the malicious software will take your files hostage.
It will lock and encrypt all of your files, and a volatile decryption key will be generated in the criminals’ servers. Sometimes they will provide a list of files that they encrypt and sometimes not.
The bottom line is, you have to pay money to get access to your files back. This might seem harmless to those owners of personal laptops that do not really store files that are important.
But imagine how devastating this could be for systems that store terabytes worth of information in databases, with limited backups (or worse, if the backups are also compromised).
The Ransomware Virus Industry on the Rise
After displaying a message indicating that your files are held for ransom (and probably in the cruelest digital equivalent of “held at gunpoint”), the user is given instructions on how to send the money to retrieve his or her decryption key. It also gives the user a stern warning – any attempt to remove the programs by any other means would wipe the randomized decryption key stored in their servers, essentially losing the files forever.
It gets worse. It has been reported there has been a ransomware industry popping up, with criminal organizations skilled with ransomware lending out their services to aspiring digital thieves.
With fast-paced technology, those with malicious intent are also adapting. The best way to protect one’s system is via prevention, after all, and not opening suspicious e-mails and not clicking links to good to be true will go a long way.
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