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Ransomware, a Growing Cyber Threat?

May 26, 2016

 

laptop
©Hannah Wei 2016, for Unsplash

February 5, 2016, another Hollywood debut. The production nobody ‘saw’ coming. Demanded $3.5 million but only made $17,000. Really, were the actors that bad?

 

Ransomware attackers are “technically” bad actors, not amateurs though. Let’s get one fact straight, they’re not out to entertain you. When your computer gives you a full-screen alert saying something along the lines of “your files are encrypted…” that’s when you know. It’s not funny. You’ve been locked out of all access to your files and computer unless you pay a “ransom” of whatever amount the hackers name. Now, that’s bad acting, or “acting badly” you may say. How do you know what they want? Well, that computer alert will most likely come with instructions on how you should pay them. Pretty much, ransomware hackers seize control of critical files and  information systems worth significant value to their victims. They don’t care if it’s personal or business information.  You’re locked out of your own computer. Period. And, they want money.

 

Not limited to Hollywood these hackers can prey on any individual, government, business, or institution. They can target any place, state or country in the cyber world. Their operations are invisible, hard to put a finger on, hard to track. The ransom must be paid to them in bitcoins.  No finger prints, no tire marks, or smoking guns for the police and investigators to mull. And, definitely no need for you to fear a trip to  a deserted downtown warehouse to drop off a briefcase full of cash.

 

Ransomware attackers hijack cyber or connected information valuables. They don’t care much about physical valuables or people.

laptop2
©William Iven 2016, for Unsplash

Typically ransomware hackers threaten their victims with permanent disruption to daily business operations, access, destruction of business information assets, public disclosure of trade secrets, personal, and sensitive communications. To save lives, privacy, and the hospital, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (HPMC) opted to pay a ransom of $17,000 to the hackers that seized access to its patients’ records, electronic information systems, and emergency room operations.

 

So what happened next? Negotiations? Did the hackers accept the 17,000 dollars?

 

You’re almost done reading this post. Watch the brief video and learn how this 10-day epic unfolded at HPMC. Keep in mind this is not like watching “General Hospital” or “Grey’s Anatomy” so get a notebook to scribble some practical data wisdom. While you’re watching, provoke your thoughts with these questions:  How vulnerable I’m I? If I were HPMC what would I do? What implications would this event have on my life, organization, employees, customers, shareholders, fans, followers, etc? What will my losses be per hour that I’m deciding what to do? Would my business continuity plan sustain the enterprise for 10 days or beyond? Is ransomware mentioned in my plan at all? Did I consider ransomware when I updated my risk assessment or incident response plan? What are my systems and communications worth? Will insurance cover this? What can I afford to pay to get my stuff back? Enough of the reading. Grab a snack or two and watch. Post questions or comments. I’m here to help.

 

Read more on this topic:

 

Hospital Pays 17k for Ransomware Crypto Key

https://arstechnica.com/security/2016/02/hospital-pays-17k-for-ransomware-crypto-key/

 

Half of American Ransomware Victims Have Paid The Ransom

https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/latest-security-news/half-of-american-ransomware-victims-have-paid-the-ransom-reveals-study/

 

How Does Ransomware Work – The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Ransomware, Part II

http://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/us/security/news/cybercrime-and-digital-threats/ransomware-101-what-it-is-and-how-it-works 

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