Ransomware: Virtual threats with real Consequences

*Sponsored by Multicomm

How much do you value the files you store on you computer? Reports have shown that businesses and older Australians are growing targets in online scams.

As a computer user you may be familiar with the terms ‘malware’ and virus’. However, there are waves of new attacks that both individuals and businesses need to be weary of. One of these attacks is known as ‘Ransomware’.

Ransomware is a piece of software that highjacks files stored a computer or even sometimes a mobile device. This software may can produce a lock so that either stored files, or even the whole device can become inaccessible.

Initial contact can sometimes occur over a phone call, with scammers looking to obtain information such as an email address in order to send through a link or attachment containing the ransomware.

A demand for money is then made to have the files unlocked. A pop-up may occur to state that your system has been infected and prompts you to call a number for assistance where they will attempt to extract personal information from you.

HOW IT HAPPENS:

Initial contact is made via a phone call or through email. The following are examples of

communication that are commonly seen;

  • Bank account/statement attachment received through email
  • Notification from a law enforcement body, stating that you have been detected undertaking in illegal activity online, such as browsing illegal sites, downloading illegal images or pirating.
  • Correspondence from a someone claiming to be from a bank, utility or postal company that you possibly use on a daily basis
  • A phone call from an Internet Service Provider or telecommunications company to state that your system is under threat of attack and requires urgent attention.

For businesses, the ransom fee can be a lot higher. Not only does this result in lost revenue and

critical files becoming inaccessible for a period of time, but clients may also lose trust in the company.

General Internet Security Tips:

  • Change passwords on a regular basis and ensure that they include capital letters, numbers and symbols if allowed. Having a strong password makes it harder for scammers to hack.
  • Exercise vigilance when opening emails
  • If sender is unknown to you, or it is out of the ordinary to receive information from them, delete the email from your inbox or create a ‘rule’ so it goes directly into the spam folder
  • If the email looks legitimate and is from a company that you may have dealings with on a regular basis, hover your mouse over any links or attachments contained in the email before clicking. This should bring up the link address, look for spelling mistakes in the address, and don’t click if the address looks completely unrelated to the ‘original sender’
  • Also check if the email is asking you to take action, it could be requesting that you enter personal details, credit card details or other information.
  • Don’t open attachments from unknown sources.
  • Double check any account information on electronic invoices. Cyber criminals are known to replicate letterheads and layouts that legitimate companies use to trick people into paying bills that they shouldn’t.
  • Familiarise yourself with the communication policies for the companies you deal with. They may specify their methods for contacting you, which may help you to identify possible fraudulent activity.
  • If you believe you have been a victim of an online scam there are a couple of government bodies that you can report it to;   ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network)   or  ScamWatch 
  • Look for a padlock symbol or “HTTPS://“ when browsing or making purchases online to show your are looking at a secured site. Unsecured websites can pose a risk as they may not be regularly monitored and allow cybercriminals to plant malware which can infect your computer if you click on a link.

 INVEST IN PROTECTION:

  • Keep regular back-ups of your data, preferably using an external hard drive. This allows you to have access to your files at all times. It is preferable to also keep multiple back-ups of the same data in case something is to happen to the original back-up copy.
  • Ensure that you have up-to-date Internet security installed on all of your computers. Look for Maximum Security Protection as these products may also be able to scan areas of vulnerability when it comes to your internet usage and your privacy including social media sites. They can often have a better range of parental controls to block potentially harmful websites from being accessed.
  • If you have a business, seek services that can help set up and monitor data back up systems, manage internet security and provide health checks to see where your system may be vulnerable. Ensure that they are also able respond to any immediate threats before it can cause damage.
  • Make sure your computer is updated often, these updates often contain patches to strengthen the in-built security of a computer system.
  • Cross-check websites and phone numbers. Sometimes even a simple Google search can bring up other reports from people to alert you that these sites or numbers belong to someone who has fraudulent intentions.

*Sponsored by Multicomm

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