By Alan Graner
A major hospital chain is denied access to its own records for over a week. A police department can’t access its investigative documents or mug shots. A large corporation is locked out of all its customer files.
What is ransomware?
It’s an online extortion racket. And there are literally hundreds of variations.
Essentially, ransomware is malware that encrypts data on your hard drive, which locks you out and renders your computer or network useless. To unlock it you must pay a ransom ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
The Herjavec Group estimates the total cost of ransomware in 2016 will be $1 billion.
How are you infected?
Criminals install the malware when you open a malicious email attachment or click on a malicious link in an email message, instant message, social networking site or a malicious website. Your computer then freezes and a message appears requiring you to pay a ransom for a key to unlock and/or disable the malware.
Supervisory Special Agent Herbert Stapleton states “[D]on’t provide any money, don’t provide any personal information if your computer is locked up by this type of malware.” http://www.fbi.gov/news/podcasts/thisweek/reveton-ransomware/view
If you are infected, the FBI urges you to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
How to remove ransomware once you’re infected
Symantec has published a solution, “Trojan.Ransomlock – Removal” for Norton users that’s available at http://www.symantec.com/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2009-041513-1400-99&tabid=3. (The process is too involved to reproduce here.)
The company also offers a free 16-page whitepaper—”Ransomware: A Growing Menace”—that details their investigation into multiple ransomware variants. You can download it at http://www.symantec.com/content/en/us/enterprise/media/security_response/whitepapers/ransomware-a-growing-menace.pdf.
Select Real Security also offers a step-by-step guide, “How to Remove Ransomware,” at http://www.selectrealsecurity.com/remove-ransomware.
For additional solutions I suggest you perform a web search.
It’s possible no remedy will work and you’ll have to pay. Many organizations quietly pay the without contacting authorities because it’s the fastest, easiest way to regain access to their data.
Since the ransom is usually paid in bitcoins, it’s almost impossible to find the culprits.
What’s been your experience with ransomware?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business public relations and marketing content firm. For content that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.