There’s always a new cyber-threat looming large isn’t there? A new virus or malware with a suitably sinister name, lurking in malicious files, waiting to cause havoc on our systems and grab headlines in the media.
The latest such nasty to make its presence felt, causing chaos and attracting the attention of the news channels, is the threateningly named: Ransomware.And make no mistake, it’s not one to be ignored.
What is it?
Actually, ransomware is not an especially new malware, it was first seen back in 2013. However it’s in its most recent incarnation in 2016 that this particular threat has come to prominence.
Labelled in some quarters as cyber-kidnap, ransomware is an extremely malicious application that, should it find its way onto our computer, has the ability to lock you out, or encrypt important files so that you have no way of accessing them. Until that is, you pay up.
Hence the term, ransom.
That’s right, this is a cyber-attack with the express intention of extorting money from those it attacks.
And we should be worried, and ever vigilant about the threat they pose.
Threat which runs across all devices
When we think of computer viruses and malware attacks, we’re automatically given to think of attacks on our PCs and laptops. As we know, Windows has been the particular system of vulnerability when it comes to such attacks.
But ransomware is not necessarily an issue exclusively for Windows users.
As reported in CIO, there have been a number of ransomware variants that have designed to hit Android and Linux in the past couple of years. While experts in cyber-security have hinted that it would be relatively easy for a ransomware strand to hit Mac OS X and even smart devices such as TVs.
Another reason to be concerned is that, as it currently stands, law enforcement against such attacks has been largely impotent.
In fact, so powerless to combat or trace perpetrators at present are the law agencies, that should you actually be the unfortunate victim of an attack, there may actually be only one course of action open to you.
This was the less than reassuring verdict of the FBI when asked about the issue back in 2015.
Cost and Continuity
If the only resolution is to pay the attacker then, clearly this comes at a potentially high monetary cost to the victim. In the US health services have been especially targeted, where organisations have had to pay upwards of $17,000 to regain access to files.
But these attacks also highlight the potential hidden costs to an organisation when it’s attacked.
If you’re shut out from accessing data, the risk is exponentially high that your business is going to be enormously disrupted, and possibly fatally compromised.
Such attacks expose you to business continuity issues, the potential costs attributed to lost data (possible fines, legal costs and such like), not to mention the damage to brand and trust that serious cyber-attacks can inflict. An Oxford University study suggested that damage to reputation and brand from a cyber-attack amounted to raw average costs in the region of £2.9 million.
We may all grow weary at another story about a new kind of threat to the cyber-landscape, and Ransomware might just be the latest in a long line of malware maliciousness. But make no mistake, this poses a serious and potentially very costly threat to your data, your system and your livelihood.
And a major reason to keep on top of your data backup and to maintain updated security measures.