While attending the STAR conference in Chicago this past weekend, I attended a seminar on something called Ransom Ware. There are other variations by different names, but Ransom Ware seems to be the most prevalent at this time. It is as the name suggest. It is a computer virus that once infected, it encrypts all your files and you must pay ransom to get the key from the bad guys to unencrypt thee files. This has hit many businesses and individuals across the U.S. One major healthcare provider recently paid $17,000 to get their files back. The majority range from $500 to a few thousand. This has become quite a business enterprise for the hackers, and that is why the criminals keep the price point low enough that people will just pay it (nuisance or cost of doing business). Keep in mind, these are cyber criminals, so even though you pay the ransom, there are never any guarantees of getting your files back.
This virus and others like it are disguised as very harmless emails. Emails that come from FedEx, UPS, Post Office, banking institutions and soon. If you suspect you’ve downloaded a virus, the first thing to do is to try to isolate and limit the problem. You must disconnect from Wi-Fi or any network you’re on. By disconnecting it will only infect the computer itself and not the network. Literally pull the plug from the computer or wall. The second thing to do is immediately shut down your computer and do not restart until after you’ve consulted with an I.T. professional.
The best defense obviously is to never open an email from a source you are not 100% sure is legitimate. Look at the address and extension of the sender. Things that start off with Dear Customer, Dear User, et cetera, are generally not from your provider. They will address you by name. Most will not send you critical information in emails. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call your provider to verify.
This is scary stuff, but something we must all be aware of and have a plan of action should it happen.
Mark H. Renzi, CCR-NJ, RPR,
Guy J. Renzi & Associates, Inc.
Golden Crest Corporate Center
2277 State Hwy 33, Suite 410
Trenton, NJ 08690