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Published On: Fri, Oct 19th, 2012

Ransomware Internet Security Risks Prevention Guide

A Closer Look at What Ransomware Is and What It Does

Ransomware, or ransom software, is one of the most overlooked malware Internet security threats.  This is primarily because it is not as common as more well-known malware.  While it doesn’t get the headlines, it is becoming increasingly popular tool for cyber criminals.  If the current trends continue, ransom software will quickly become an Internet security threat everyone should look out for.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware holds the user’s entire device hostage.  Once a device is infected, all of the files are locked down so the cybercriminal has complete control over the device.  In order to get access to the device again, users must pay the hacker money.  Of all of the Internet security threats, ransom software is the only one which purposely makes itself known to the device owner.

How Does a Ransomware Attack Operate?

A ransomware attack can be broken down into a five step process.  The first step is when the hacker makes contact with the user.  This is normally done through an e-mail, text message, or social networking contacts.  The message will contain a malicious attachment or a link to a malicious website.  Next the ransomware is installed on the device.  In most cases, the installation must be done by the user which is why ransomware is often cloaked as an internet security update, free software trial, or compatibility update.

Once the ransomware is installed, the user is locked out of their device.  At this point, the hacker has full control and can do anything they want.  They will copy, encrypt, and delete files so the user can no longer access them.  Next, the device will display a message telling the user to pay a set fee to unlock the device and access the data stored on it.

The final step is sending money to the hacker through an anonymous online payment system.  Once the payment is received, the cybercriminal may or may not unlock the device.  In most cases, they will only unlock the device if they have installed other malware which will make the device beneficial to them at a later date – such as turning it into a zombie device.

What Are the Associated Internet Security Risks?

The obvious Internet security risk associated with ransomware is losing access to the infected device.  Another Internet security risk, which is often an afterthought, is that the hacker now has copies of every file on the device. This opens the door for identity theft.  The hacker may also insert additional malware on the device so that it can be accessed and used later for a variety of malicious purposes.

How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

There are a variety of Internet security practices which can prevent a ransomware attack.  The most important step is backing up data regularly so that victims still have access to all of their data, even if their device is locked.  Keeping software, browsers, and operating systems up-to-date is also important because many ransomware attacks focus on known software vulnerabilities.

There is little doubt ransomware will become an increasingly prevalent Internet security threat.  It allows cyber criminals a fast and effective way to profit from their endeavor.  It also provides an opportunity for long-term profitability through identity theft and malware left on the device.

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This article is written by Daniel Eastin writes articles about VPN security and the Android OS.  Using the Android VPN for his HTC one he is able to access his favorite sites securely, even on public Wifi. His articles help explain issues concerning technology and security.

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