If someone seized all the files on your computer, how much will you pay to get them back? What if the files include company information, critical data sheets, family photos and information about your children? In a world where most of the people are living virtually, a lot is at stake. Ransomware is a malicious code that the cyber criminals use to lock computer files and then demand a ransom to free it. It is a form of pick pocketing in the virtual space where hackers catch hold of important data before you are aware. They mainly target small businesses and start ups who are unaware of such threats and lack the capital to provide protection for their systems.

Cryptolocker is a software commonly used by these virtual kidnappers. The software encrypts all the data on the system and if the amount requested is not paid, the data is lost forever. The malware can be sent as an E-mail attachment which on one download can spread like an epidemic and encrypt files on all systems connected to the network. Payments have to be made in the form of bitcoins to avoid tracking. It is the easiest and fastest way to make money.

Cyber criminals also rent exploit kits which anyone with a minimum knowledge of coding could use to invade and encrypt your system. It is like a double profit business. They also provide discounts as a bargain where they free some of the files on the system and demand a fee to free the rest of the files and double the price if you take a longer time to pay the ransom. The ominous timer keeps ticking on the screen forcing most of the companies to give up and pay the ransom. As the business is on the line, most of the victim companies pay the ransom and recover their data. You have to choose either your money, or your files.

The hackers amplify the amount and threat as time progresses to force companies to pay. As the recession has hit the world, many coders are resorting to ransomware as a way of making fast and easy money. The level of encryption is so high that it’s very tedious to break through and retrieve the information. It is a loss of time and valuable information. Backing up your files seems to be the only solution. The problem still persists as the malware has the capability to spread across the network which includes the cloud thus encrypting google drive and dropbox as well. Back ups must be stored on a remote device that is not connected to the network.

Employees must be advised to avoid clicking on ad campaigns since most of them are generally infected with malware. Mail attachments from unknown senders must not be downloaded. Security awareness training programs must be provided and businesses should consider security as a part of their business plan and implement it and also update it accordingly to be on par with the advancement of technology. To beat them we need to be one of them, understand how they work and build a strong defence against them.