Ransomware is a form of malicious software designed to lock and encrypt the victim’s computer files, then demands payment to restore access. Attackers will threaten to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access if the ransom is not paid. Ransomware attacks have increased along with the rapid global spread of the novel coronavirus. Cybersecurity researchers have reported an increase in volume, severity, and scope of ransomware attacks since the onset of the pandemic.
Attackers are increasingly targeting governments, critical infrastructure, businesses, as well as individuals with ransomware at a time when their cybersecurity may be decreased. Working from home has become a popular gateway for ransomware attacks as cybercriminals switch tactics to take advantage of the Covid-19 fears among the population. In this article, we look at some of the emerging types of ransomware attacks during Covid-19 and how to prevent them.
New Types of Ransomware Attacks during Covid-19
Cybercriminals are increasingly deploying a new strain of ransomware disguised as legitimate contact tracing apps. These apps will encrypt the files and lock users out of their devices upon installation. There has also been an uptick in fake data report websites designed to steal user information and spread ransomware. Covid-19 has also given hackers the perfect opportunity to make money from healthcare organizations.
Hospitals across Europe and the US have become targets of ransomware attacks during Covid-19, forcing them to pay up when they can least afford to have an outage. The testing lab’s digital services at Brno University Hospital in the Czech Republic was the target of a ransomware attack in March, halting operations. The following month, the patient information storage systems in Colorado’s Parkview Medical Centre were crippled after the hospital suffered a devastating ransomware attack.
What Organizations and Individuals Can do to Increase Protection Against Ransomware
Cybercriminals are using a variety of tactics in an attempt to steal sensitive user information and shut down business operations for illicit financial gain during the Covid-19 pandemic. One of them is by launching ransomware attacks at individuals, businesses, and hospitals. Here are some effective preventative measures individuals and businesses can take to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack.
Hackers often spread ransomware through phishing emails and drive-by downloads. Configuring your email servers to block suspicious emails is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from the latter. Also, train your employees on how to differentiate between phishing emails and genuine emails and not to open suspicious links or attachments. Make sure that employees get training on how to pinpoint common phishing email characteristics.
Install a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts all your web traffic and allows you to hide the IP address of your device. A VPN is one of the most effective ways to protect your privacy and maintain complete anonymity online. Using a VPN to encrypt your traffic is especially important when using a public Wi-Fi network to access the internet. Public Wi-Fi networks are notorious hiding places for cybercriminals who can take advantage of lax security measures to steal sensitive data.
Use Antivirus Software
Ensure that you have reputable security software that includes a firewall that will help you identify threats or suspicious behaviour and block them before they penetrate your system. Good antivirus software can help you protect your system against different types of malicious software, including ransomware. It’s essential to have more than one layer of protection as threat actors are constantly sending new types of threats to avoid detection.
As Covid-19 rages on, governments across the world continue to impose social distancing and stay-at-home orders in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Cyberthreats such as ransomware have evolved to take advantage of this situation. Given the likelihood of high impact and financial gain, threat actors are also increasingly deploying ransomware against healthcare organizations and critical infrastructure. This is the moment for individuals and organizations to focus on cybersecurity to avoid falling victim to these attacks.