Ruckus of the Ransomware

We live in a day and age when thefts and attacks are not only personal but growing commonplace in the cyber world too. As and how technology makes it bigger and bigger, so do the hackers who hack your computer and steal important and sometimes confidential data to make you pay for something that is your own.

Off late, the Ransomware virus is making news for the malicious way it gets inside your computer, almost as if it thrives as a parasite in your computer, encrypts your data and then asks for ransom money in the form of Bitcoin in lieu of your valuable data. This is the trend it has followed with 2 lakh victims in 150 countries so far including India, with reportedly 40 percent of companies attacked the world over, making it a global concern.

Also known as WannaCry Virus (or even Wanna Decryptor), its latest victims were 36 computer systems of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), a trust body that oversees the finances and administration functions of Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple, one of the most visited, revered and the second richest religious center in the world.

Although the IT department stopped the virus from affecting any of the pilgrim services as they already had back-up data, the fact that the huge temple’s systems too could not prevent the attack is worrisome.

Even Andhra Pradesh police department was not spared and neither is their ministry safe, with an attack already executed on the secretariat’s computer systems.

The virus creates encrypted copies and even deletes the originals, leaving you with the encrypted files. Worse, WannaCry keeps increasing the ransom money and hurries you for payment by threatening to make you lose all your data to finally make you pay them. But there is no assurance or a guarantee that the money paid will help you get your files back.

How to know your computer is infected with the virus?

  • If you have opened an unwarranted attachment or link, your computer may get infected as WannaCry malware attacks use these as their favorite methods to take over all your files.
  • These can be Microsoft Office Suite files or a Photoshop project document or something even as varied as a Zip folder or files used by a Software Engineer.
  • You get to see a message on your screen saying your files have been encrypted and you need to pay to get them back. The payment option (Bitcoin), the ransom amount and the time left to recover your files is being highlighted on the screen, creating a sense of panic and rush.

Be safe than sorry                  

  • Ransomware virus has been so far mostly attacking computers in banks, hospitals, private companies and government organizations using older versions of Microsoft Windows so if you are still going with Windows XP, Windows 2008 or Vista, get it upgraded to the latest operating systems. Installing all available updates is what the experts advise.
  • Mostly suspicious links, phishing emails or some attachments ending with .exe, .url, .wsf, .hlp or even .com, especially the ones that come from unknown sources are the ways through which the malware gets into your system. Do not open your spam emails and filter the websites you are accessing or the emails you view, especially ones with URLs.
  • Always keep a ready back-up for all your data. If infected with the virus, paying is not an option. But informing IT experts in a company or the cyber crime sections in a police department is. Also, de-plug any data cables, pen drives, etc. from your computer if the virus attacks your computer.
  • Use updated and well-known anti-virus software that can warn you of any unsolicited programs, domains and websites; will scan your attachments before you download them and protect your system from being infected.

The only way to protect yourself is be wary in these Ransomware times or shall I say, Cyber Crisis?

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