In 2015, law enforcement officials reported a spike in the number of ransomware attacks. While ransomware intrusions have been around for a number of years, the financial rewards for those who hold a website or network system hostage are significant. In an FBI report, last year’s growth has continued in the first few months of 2016.
The victims of these attacks cover every industrial sector, from businesses small and large to school districts, local and state governments, hospitals and school districts. Even law enforcement agencies have been targets. For the victims of ransomware attacks, the assaults can be catastrophic. Hackers perpetrating these attacks can prevent access to key data, threaten to expose proprietary information, or expose or sell customer data.
In a ransomware attack, a hacker gains access to an organization’s computer systems. Typically, an unsuspecting employee clicks on an emailed attachment that appears to be a bill or other official document. In actuality, the attachment installs a malicious software program (malware) onto the computer system. Once embedded, the malware allows a hacker access to critical systems, often giving complete remote control data and access.
Hackers are getting more sophisticated. Today, the malicious code may be placed on a website. When a user with an unsecured or unpatched software program accesses the site, the malware slips inside that user’s computer.
Protecting your organization
The FBI recommends that organizations continue to be vigilant when it comes to safeguarding systems and educating employees. The two areas that the FBI recommends that organizations focus on are:
Tips for keeping systems secure
The FBI has released the following tips that are applicable for organizations, employees and individual computer users:
The FBI encourages any organizations that believe they have been a victim of a ransomware attack to report the issue to the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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