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The Rise of Ransomware

I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of ransomware before. This is when hackers gain access to your computer through malicious or infected websites or popups, and then encrypt a portion of your hard drive and all your important files. The first sign of trouble is a notice on your screen demanding cash to unlock your data. If you ever needed convincing on the importance of having secure data backups, this is it.

The technology used in these attacks is so sophisticated even the FBI ARE NOW ADVISING to ‘just pay the money’. And unlike the large corporate data breaches that we tend to see happening in the US and the UK, ransomware is active right here in our little corner of Africa. I personally know of three people who have been subjected to ransomware attacks in the past 3 months (None were using Cloudbox of course!)

So what can you do to protect yourself?

  • Use reputable ‘business’ grade antivirus and a firewall. I’m not going to mention any names, but the free stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore, and it’s simply not worth the risk for the minimal cost that gets you really good protection.
  • Make sure DATA BACKUPS are done often, automatically, and securely.
  • Make sure your IT is properly managed. There’s nothing worse than expecting to have secure data backups and it’s not there when you need it.
  • Browse safe. The internet is a little bit like a big city – you know when you’re in the wrong part of town. Be careful, and stay safe. Don’t click on that alleyway when you don’t know what’s down it.

Just this past week I came across my 4th case of ransomware. Someone I know (CHATHAM HOUSE RULES apply) got hit the hardest I’ve seen yet. We think the malware got into the environment via a USB stick on an unprotected laptop, walked into the network and then onto an aging and badly maintained file server. All in all nearly 9TB of critical business data encrypted, with a lovely little calling card with instructions on how to use a TOR browser and head off to the dark web to pay approx. 700$ in BitCoin for the pleasure of the encryption key to unlock your data.

Now there are only really two ways out of a situation like this: Have good recent DATA BACKUPS to restore from, or pay the money. Let’s just say things got worse from there, and I found myself in search of 1.87 BTC (yes that really is the going exchange rate) to do a deal with the criminal underworld. The next hurdle was that to legitimately purchase Bitcoin in South Africa through an exchange like BITX, you need to FICA yourself, and jumping through that hoop as a company can take up to five days which was obviously too long. Luckily I know a guy who knew a guy, and once you’re in the game you can transfer BitCoin easier and faster than finding an Uber driver at OR Tambo.

So we did the deal, spent a couple of nerve-wrecking hours working through the ominous warning of “you have to disable your antivirus to run this decryption software”, and got the 9TB of data back. Several people have expressed amazement that the $700 actually got the right stuff to unlock the files, but you need to remember this is not some pimply teenager having fun – this is serious organised crime and big business. As soon as they don’t give the goods in exchange for the money, people would stop paying, so you’re more than likely to get the right key to your data (although there are obviously no guarantees).

And even though this was not a Cloudbox customer, they are starting to see the value in properly managed IT and industry leading security…

Security and compliance have been key parts of Cloudbox from the start, so if you’re with us don’t worry, we’ve got your back (and your data backups).

And if you’re not, maybe it’s time you gave CLOUDBOX a call?

And, be sure to follow us on our SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS to keep up to date with the latest news.

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