Imagine waking up one morning, reach out for computer, turn it on and then you see a screenshot that says your computer has been locked and except you pay a particular amount then you won’t gain access again.
Welcome to the world of one of the most dreaded form of Cyber attacks because it can actually wreck havoc to a single system or network of systems.
According to TrendMicro, Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files unless a ransom is paid.
More modern ransomware families, collectively categorized as crypto-ransomware, encrypt certain file types on infected systems and forces users to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods to get a decrypt key.
Heimdal Security reports two major type of ransomeware:
– Encrypting ransomware: which incorporates advanced encryption algorithms. It’s designed to block system files and demand payment to provide the victim with the key that can decrypt the blocked content. Examples include CryptoLocker, Locky, CrytpoWall and more.
– Locker ransomware:which locks the victim out of the operating system, making it impossible to access the desktop and any apps or files.
The files are not encrypted in this case, but the attackers still ask for a ransom to unlock the infected computer. Examples include the police-themed ransomware or Winlocker.
It is believe that the first cases of ransomware infection were first seen in Russia between 2005 – 2006 as reported by a Trend Micro report published 2006, it involved a ransomware variant (detected as TROJ_CRYZIP.A) that zipped certain file types before overwriting the original files, leaving only the password-protected zip files in the user’s system.
It also created a text file that acted as the ransom note informing users that the files can be retrieved in exchange for $300.
A 2015 report by Microsoft report for the top 10 countries with the most ransomeware detections shows that the United States takes a full half of all detections.
Italy is second, followed closely by Canada, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. After that the distribution is spread across the globe.
The reality is that no one is immune, anyone or orgisation can be attacked. In 2016, the University of Calgary published a statement that it paid a ransom totalling about $20,000 CDN that was demanded by a group of hackers in a “ransomware” attack and after that they received keys to decrypt the files.
The University was probably lucky there were cases of people who paid and yet could not regain access to their files.
Nigeria is advancing technologically and crypto-currencies like BitCoin is becoming popular, it might not be out of place to ask everyone to take some precautions while embracing technology.