There is one thing that is for certain these days: The Cyberthreat landscape is changing on a constant basis, and the sophistication on the Cyber attacker is growing at an ever increasing rate. Really in the end, it is a like a cat and mouse game. The victim (the mouse) is always trying to avoid being taken down by the Cyber attacker (the cat).
Unfortunately, it is the cat that is many steps ahead of the mouse in this situation. The latest type of attack to come out is what is known as “Ransomware”. In these instances, the Cyber attacker sends a piece of malware to your computer, server, or even wireless device. But, what makes this different from other malware attacks is that the .EXE file actually locks up your screen, and even folders and files.
The only way to get your screen unlocked and/or retrieve your folders and files is to actually pay the Cyber attacker a “ransom” (thus the name of this kind of Cyber attack). But, the Cyber attacker does not want a cash payment, rather he or she wants to be paid by a virtual currency, such as Bitcoin.
There are numerous reasons for this, one of the primary ones is that their tracks cannot be detected with the virtual currency as opposed to hard cash, in which marked bills can be used. Supposedly, after you have figured out to pay the ransom with Bitcoin, the Cyber attacker will then send over to you the decryption key in which to unlock your screen and related files and folders. But keep in mind, that there is no guarantee that the Cyber attacker will live up to their word in this regard.
This is exactly what happened at the Atlanta, GA City Hall. They were hit with a major Ransomware attack. This happened last Thursday, and apparently, the Cyber attacker(s) want $51,000 to be paid immediately in the form of the virtual currency.
This is not just affecting just the City Hall employees, but the rest of the Atlanta residents that use government services to pay bills. Worst yet, nobody can even access the court related documents that are needed to move forward with the legal cases there.
Also, it is assumed by Atlanta city officials that all of the username and password combinations used by the City Hall employees were stolen as well in the midst of this Ransomware attack. But the truth of the matter is that nobody really knows yet at this point in the extent of the damage was done. The employees have also been told to keep a close eye on both their bank and credit card online accounts.
Of course, alarm bells are going off all over the state of Georgia (ad rightfully so), with one official eve n saying this: “The recent ransomware attacks on Atlanta’s computer systems is another wake up call for the U.S. Government to be better prepared to defend against cyber-attacks. Unfortunately these attacks are not isolated incidents and will continue across Federal, state or local governments among organizations and agencies relying on legacy solutions and heterogeneous infrastructures that are pieced together to deal with individual needs over time.” (SOURCE: https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/88856-atlanta-municipal-systems-hit-with-ransomware-attack).
But really in the end, there is only so much that technology can do. An equal component in this proverbial cat and mouse game is human vigilance as well. By this, I mean keeping and instilling a proactive Security mindset not only for yourself and your place of employment, but even the other people around you as well. This is obviously a hard task to accomplish, but the principle is actually quite easy: If you feel in your gut something is wrong or not right, report it at once to the local authorities.
As for avoiding Ransomware attacks, in all honesty, they are becoming too sophisticated to completely defend against. So, just do the following:
*Never pay a Cyber attacker the ransom, as this will only fuel their motivation even more to launch more attacks;
*Always keep backups of your files both on physical devices and in the Cloud. If you do become a victim of a Ransomware attack, all you have to do is merely replace your laptop or wireless device. This cost pales in comparison to the cost of losing all of your data if it is not backed up regularly.