How ransomware works

May 13, 2017

Couple of hours ago, it was confirmed that several European countries have suffered massive malware attacks where malicious hackers break into computers and only allowing their owners back in when they pay enough money. Malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to ‘unlock’ your computer or files. In England, the reports indicated that at least 16 hospitals across the country have been hit by a huge cyber attack, plunging the National Health Service into chaos. IT systems appear to have broken and emergency patients are being diverted to other areas, with hospitals in London, Nottingham, Cumbria, Blackburn and Hertfordshire  affected. In Spain, Telefonica one of the country’s leading telecommunications companies was affected as well. But how does the scam work? Well, I have a few ideas to share. Malware scammers send emails and social media messages at random with links purporting to be videos on something topical or something interesting.If an individual click on the link he or she may be taken to a fake website that looks like the real deal, complete with logos and branding of legitimate sites. For example, in order to view the video, you will be asked to install some software to be able to access the video format. If you download the software, your computer will be infected with malware.In the case of NHS and Telefonica, I suspect hackers used the other way of delivering a malware scam through websites and pop-ups that offer file downloads or free access to content.In such a scenario, malware scams work by installing software on computer that allows scammers to access files or watch what someone maybe doing on their computer. Scammers use this information to steal personal details and commit fraudulent activities.

They may make unauthorised purchases or use your identity to do shady stuff online. In one case am familiar with, a Queenslander friend found out they took out loans using his details and also carried out other illegal business under her name as well as selling her information to other scammers for further illegal use.Back to attacks in Spain that affected utility Gas Natural, Telefonica and power company Iberdrola, the reality is that ransomware business is thriving. In the case of NHS in England, infected computers displayed messages to convince staff into paying the ransom. Past cases involved scammers who pretended to be from the police and claimed their victims have committed an illegal activity and must pay a fine, or they may simply demand payment for a key to unlock your computer. In most cases, even if you pay the ransom, there are no guarantee your computer will be unlocked. It is possible to protect yourself as long as you do not open attachments or click on links in emails or social media messages you’ve received from strangers and would advise that go for press delete as soon as you see it.It is important to be wary of free downloads and website access especially gaming sites, music, movies and porn sites.Most of them install harmful programs without user knowing. Very critical to keep computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. It is advisable that you buy computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.Although none of us is full proof of cyber attacks, keeping office networks , computers, and mobile devices secure is a great idea. Updating security software, changing passwords and backing up data regularly is something i’ll ask anyone to do as regularly as they can storing backups offsite and offline.

Contador Harrison