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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ransomware - Showing the importance of backup

Some days back in the month of May, the whole world was hit by what is commonly known as Wannacry Ransomware. The Ransomware gradually encompassed the whole world while centralised mainly around Europe. More than 2,00,000 organizations spread across 150 countries were heavily affected by this attack which caught most of the masses sleeping. 

I would use the word sleeping here because despite so much talks about the online security and precautions a large chunk of the world was caught unaware or perhaps what we should say careless on their part against this huge attack.
Perhaps people really need to be aware about the online security or perhaps companies need to make people more aware about the online security.

What is Ransomware and how does it work?

Ransomware as the term states is a kind of cyber-attack that involves hackers taking control of a computer system and blocking access to it until a ransom is paid. These attacks are mainly undertaken by the cyber criminals for want of quick money. A cyber-attack such as this works only when it is able to control the computer to be attacked which is possible only when some sort of malicious software is downloaded in the target device. This is often done by getting the victim to click a link or download the software by mistake. Once downloaded, the software wreaks havoc by gradually encrypting all the files it can find within a device or a network.

A Ransomware
  • Prevents one from using one’s device.
  • Encrypts files as a result of which they cannot be used unless the Ransom is paid.

The virus Wannacry ransomware wreaked havoc on the organizations demanding huge payments which could not be traced. The reason for the payments going untraced is the use of Bitcoin, the hugely popular virtual currency.

Large companies are often able to spot this attack in the initial phase and can isolate the documents to minimise the damage. Individuals however are not so lucky as they do not have any such measures and they do not have any option other than paying the ransom unless they have created a backup of their information.

Who is responsible for the attack?

A secret group called Shadow brokers who first appeared in 2016 and who is responsible for several leaks containing hacking tools from the NSA ( USA intelligence agency) has been held responsible for carrying out this attack.

Who all were affected?

The online attacks were carried all over the world with around 75000 different computers attacked all over, however, the major organizations hit in the attack were Britain’s National Health Service, Renault- French car making company, FedEX - The International shipper, Russia’s banks, Spain’s company Telefonica and more.

According to Microsoft, it released a security update in the purview of this attack in March, thus, most of the computers running on updated operating systems were protected from this attack. However, those operating systems running on Windows XP were affected. Microsoft stopped its support activities for the OS 3 years back.

               100 million computers still run on Windows - XP                                                    

Situation in India

A cyber security firm Quick heal detected over 48,000 ransomware attack attempts in the country, with West Bengal witnessing the most incidents. The attack was not focussed on any particular industry but it was widely spread across industries especially those organizations which are online and connected.
According to Quick Heal, 60% of the victims were enterprises while 40% were individuals. The top cities affected were Kolkata, Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Pune and Mumbai. 

How to protect yourself?

  • The best protection against ransomware attacks is to have all files backed up in a completely separate system. This means that if you suffer an attack you won't lost any information to the hackers.
  • The best way to protect yourself is to be suspicious of unsolicited emails and always type out web addresses yourself rather than clicking on links. 
  • Another key defence is antivirus programs that can scan files before they are downloaded, block secret installations and look for malware that may already be on a computer. 

Backup your data

Companies today require one to share one's personal information as a pre-requisite of using their services which is why it has become even more important to protect the sensitive data of the customers. Companies also get into financial transactions throughout their business which is also a sensitive data which needs to be protected.

From the perspective of an individual, it is very important for a person to keep a Backup of all the electronics data because of the growing exposure to such attacks. Perhaps this is the reason that creating a backup is very important for any individual to protect himself from these attacks.

To conclude, awareness among the masses need to be spread to make them more cautious of these attacks. Online security systems need to be upgraded continuously while the older systems need to be phased out gradually to minimize the damage from these attacks. The power of data is limitless and if used to exploit the masses can be very dangerous.

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