Ok ladies, it’s time for some heavy lifting! So let’s get right to it:
- Question: What is Ransomware?
- Answer: Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system. It forces its victims to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods in order to grant access to their systems, or to get their data back. (Trend Micro)
Let me give you a real life example to help you relate. If a criminal kidnaps a child, like in the popular Denzel movie, Man on Fire, they often demand cash in exchange for returning the person to their relative/loved one. During the time of the kidnapping, the family has no access to the child – they cannot even see the child or perform everyday tasks like eating dinner together or talking about what happened at school that day. Imagine that the child got their report card on the day they were kidnapped – the family would not be able to see what was on the report card – not the child’s name, not their grades, nothing. Access to the child and everything the child has is completely cut off. No family member can get to the child or access to the information they may hold until the ransom is paid and the child is returned. #InThatOrder
Ransomware is technical jargon; but, it basically means the same situation as described above; but, in this case the kidnapper is a computer hacker and the kidnapee is a computer system. A hospital in Southern California, Hollywood Presbyterian, is under a ransomware attack as we speak. Their computer system is completely shut down and workers do not have access to patient information, records, etc. Patient registration, notes, medical records and conditions are all being handled the old way – by pen and paper. This is serious: the FBI has been called in to investigate and help!
The ransom being demanded is 9,000 bitcoins (or 3.4 million dollars). In exchange, the hackers would send back the key code to restore the system.
Bitcoins are a sort to encrypted virtual currency – think of it as electronic money (they are not real dollars) that can be transferred between entities or people digitally and ANONYMOUSLY. Your bank keeps track of everything you send/receive but that’s not possible with Bitcoins. Users simply have a Wallet ID and that’s it. You can “never” know who the buyer or seller is. This virtual currently is not ensured by the FDIC and this industry, praised by Bill Gates and others, is largely unregulated.
Today, it’s a hospital, tomorrow maybe it’ll be the Social Security Administration or your bank. Then what? Sure, those agencies/companies spend millions of dollars fighting cyber attacks – President Obama recently announced that he wants$3 billion from Congress to to fight such crimes as these, cyberattacks; but, we, very much live in a digital world and it only takes one lucky attempt or try for a hacker to do “virtual” damage.
Ransomware is not just for companies, individuals can be targeted as well. Even you! So, what can you do? Don’t open email from people you don’t know, especially attachments. Don’t click on UNKNOWN links – seriously, if the sender’s email address is something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” this should a RED FLAG. If you haven’t paid attention to that before, spend 5 seconds to look NOW! Don’t download FREE software you think is going to solve your problem (i.e. my computer is slow software X claims to be able to fix it”, etc.) Don’t play games online that require you to DOWNLOAD something. PERIOD. FREE != GOOD != SAFE… I just taught you a bit of computer programming there 🙂 And finally, get a Mac. Seriously… read more here.
I included a few videos below in case you want to learn more about Ransomware or Bitcoins. #StaySafeOnline