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What is Ransomware?

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is the newest cyber attack sweeping everything from public utilities to government agencies and even health care centres. From the WannaCry ransomware a month ago to the NotPetya attack this week, it’s just the latest demonstration of the vulnerabilities of our internet security - and how important it is to fortify our defenses.

What is it?

Ransomware is simply malware with some blackmail and ransom demands attached. The primary function of ransomware is to infect your computer, lock you out of all your files, then demand payment to unlock it. Usually, this payment is in an untraceable currency, such as Bitcoin.

What makes a ransomware attack so effective is that it’s almost impossible to stop once you’ve been infected. Since it functions by scanning your disk the next time you boot up after being attacked, you could be on your last session right now and have already been locked out of your files.

Why now?

Ransomware has been around for years, but so far, online security has made it very difficult for hackers to attack systems. In addition, ransom payments back then were usually traceable to the intended recipient, making the criminals easier to catch.

The development of better technologies and untraceable currency in the last couple of years have given hackers better tools to start getting ahead of current online security. In addition to that, the interconnected nature of the systems we use both in public in private networks have become the ideal place for ransomware to spread from PC to PC.

Ransomware attackers have also become more coordinated than their earlier counterparts, attacking potentially more valuable targets such as shipping companies and healthcare centres that have the resources to pay them back, and the immediate need to regain access to their systems. This doesn’t exempt normal civilian devices, as ransomware has also been known to target the personal computers of these workers or unfortunate passerby just connecting to a system.

How do I (not) get it?

Fortunately, ransomware’s base algorithm as malware means that most of the defenses we use against malware are already effective in stopping ransomware as well. Most ransomware is transmitted via unsecured files and suspicious emails that look like they’re sent from legitimate sources.

However, this margin of safety narrows down once your computer has been infected. One thing is very important to remember: never pay. Do not, under any circumstances, pay the ransom. There is no guarantee that the hackers will let go of your system even if you’ve paid. Here are two things that you can do if you’re infected.

Wait. Cyber security companies are aware of ransomware attacks and are constantly developing ways to diagnose, prevent and remove such malware on your computer. It may take them some time to get a fix, but such a fix does happen.

Other safety measures. If you’ve kept a backup of your PC in an external hard drive, just wipe your PC clean and reinstall your backup. It may sound like a hassle, but it’ll save you a lot of money.

If you’re part of a network of computers (such as work computers and the like), inform your system administrator immediately once you’ve been hit by ransomware. Ransomware can hijack administrator privileges, allowing it to rapidly spread into a linked network, locking all PCs that are connected to it.

Protect yourself with Betternet

But like all cyber attacks, prevention is better than cure. Tools like Betternet, a free VPN that can both shield you from cyber attacks while browsing online and masks your identity on the net, can greatly decrease your chances of being hit by ransomware.

What makes us different from other free VPN services is that we are transparent when it comes to how we make money and how we handle user data. You can learn more about these by visiting our site and by reading our blog.

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by Betternet