Bucks Writs - Summer 2017 - 30


Tech Tips From a Recovering Geek:
Held Hostage
- By Jason R. Weiss, Esquire -
"The data on your computer
has been encrypted and
cannot be restored without
a special key, which you
can purchase by following
the instructions below."
If you have ever seen a
message similar to this on
your computer, you are
undoubtedly, and unfortunately, familiar with
ransomware. You are not alone. Most recently, the Petya
and WannaCry ransomware attacks wreaked havoc on tens
of thousands of computers worldwide. The attacks caused
temporary closures at Britain's public health system, Russia's
Interior Ministry, pharmaceutical conglomerate Merck, and
many other companies around the globe.

What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that holds your computer
hostage until you pay a fee for a decryption key - the
ransom. Payment is often a few hundred dollars and
requested as gift cards and more recently, Bitcoin. Instructions are clearly laid out to assist the victim to acquire the
key. Some cyberattack organizations even go so far as to
provide a phone number for "customer support" if you
have trouble following the onscreen instructions. While
seemingly there for you, the agent on the phone has
every incentive to help - if you want to pay, they want to
ensure you can. While there are organizations and groups
that create viruses and malware to cause chaos and steal
information, the individuals that create ransomware attacks
are, for the most part, in it solely for the money. For some,
it has been a very lucrative business model.
Like most other types of viruses and malware, ransomware
can be distributed through numerous mechanisms. Users
unknowingly download the ransomware by visiting an
infected website or, more commonly, by downloading
attachments and clicking on links in emails from malicious
senders or previously compromised email accounts.

How can I protect myself?
First and foremost, do not open emails from unknown
individuals. If you do, absolutely do not click on any links
or download any attachments. Attackers know you cannot
resist the temptation to click that blue link and prey on
your curiosity. Additionally, if you have read any of my
previous articles, you should know how important it is to
have proactive virus and malware monitoring. There are
numerous free and reasonably priced options for individuals
and businesses to ensure your protection. Finally, as most of
these attacks exploit vulnerabilities in software and applications installed on your computer, it is critical to update all
of your software packages as security updates are released.
I know how much you dislike Windows Updates, but they
are important for your security.
Even if you take the above steps, it is possible your
computer will be compromised by a virus, malware, or
ransomware. Thus, in addition to the above precautions,
it is also important to backup your files. You most likely
have thousands of pictures, a music and movie library,
and financial documentation on your computer that you
cannot live without. There are services that will automatically backup your data to an online storage system (the
cloud) for a minimal monthly fee. Or, you can use physical
media such as DVDs or flash drives to periodically backup
your data manually.
Be vigilant and protect yourself. Don't be held hostage.
Happy (and safe) computing. 


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Bucks Writs - Summer 2017

Bucks Writs - Summer 2017 - 1
Bucks Writs - Summer 2017 - 2
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