What is ransomware?
Ransomware is one variety malicious software that infects your PC and denies you access to your data.The malware creates a random key and locks off information behind a wall of encryption. This particular type of malware is labeled ransomware as it threatens to delete or sell locked off information until a fee or “ransom” is paid. After the cyber attacker has been paid the victim will typically receive a key to decrypt their data. Ransomware is a real threat in the present day, affecting medical practices in particular, by holding crucial data hostage. Notable examples of ransomware include Reveton, Fusob and more recently WannaCry and Petya.

How does ransomware get into my PC?
Many ransomware attacks are carried out through the use of Trojan software, malware disguised as legitimate files sent over email or found online. These Trojans are downloaded or opened by unsuspecting users and proceed to affect PCs. Newer forms of ransomware like WannaCry and NotPetya have exploited a vulnerability in the Windows OS called EternalBlue, making them particularly dangerous.

Why is the instance of ransomware attacks on the rise?
Increased use of Bitcoin and the advent of the Deep Web has greatly improved the ease of which stolen information can be bought and sold. Low risk and the potential for high reward combined with increasing availability of ransomware toolkits has encouraged ransomware attackers.

How can I avoid ransomware attacks?
Ransomware attacks can best be avoided by the latest versions of operating systems and training workers to take care when opening suspicious files. For medical practices, where patient data is invaluable, it is recommended that data is backed up regularly to lessen the detrimental effects of the ransomware. It may, however, for medical practitioners, be cheaper to simply pay the amount demanded by the ransomware in the event of attack than to regularly update and prepare for an attack that may never occur. It is crucial to remember however, there is no guarantee that your data will be made available to you again, whether you pay the ransom or not.

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