In the fall of 2013, a virus named “CryptoLocker” began infecting the systems of individuals, companies, and governments.
“CryptoLocker” is a form of malware known as ransomware. When the malware is executed on a target system or infrastructure, all files are instantly encrypted. In order to regain access to files and systems, a decryption key (in essence, a password) is required to unlock the affected targets.
A fee is demanded by the hacker operating the malware, usually in the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin, in order to receive the decryption key and regain access. The ransom can be as low as $100, and has been seen to be as high as $3.6 million dollars, in the case of a large hospital in Hollywood, CA. If the user fails to pay within timeframe set by the hacker, the key is deleted and access to files and systems are lost forever.
This is where the importance of isolated backups come into play. If all data and information is backed up somewhere on the general network, the malware can still reach this location and lock all files, rendering the idea of a backup pointless. One such case occurred when the malware compromised a single computer belonging to the police department of Detroit, and spread to the entire criminal database.
There are some basic yet powerful ways to prevent the effects of ransomware:
- Good data retention policies: Backups should be performed frequently in order to have access to data ranging from two months to one week old.
- Strong Awareness: As basic as it sounds, files downloaded from unverified sources and unknown email senders should never be run on any computer. Ransomware can’t affect you if it never reaches your computer.
- Permissions: Backup folders should not be accessible by normal users of your network, and only by the IT department and higher echelons of management.
- Awareness! Education of users is the most effective way of preventing infection by any malware, let it be something as serious as ransomware or as minor as a pop up generator. Basic information regarding essential security practices, strong passwords, and safe internet habits should be taught to all users.
Here at PC Network Solutions, we strive to keep our clients up to date with the newest threats of the internet, and promote safe operation of systems and networks to prevent any negative occurrences.