What Is Ransomware and the Danger It Can Cause
By Jonathan Decker
With the rise in online business activities over the past decade or so, cybersecurity has become one of the top concerns for individuals, businesses, and entities like hospitals and government agencies.
During crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic, though, cybercriminals tend to pounce even more on their potential victims, oftentimes using the false pretense that they are offering something of value to them, such as a “cure” or a vaccine.
One type of cybercrime that has increased exponentially over the past several weeks is ransomware attacks – which can be extremely profitable for hackers and other online criminals. Unfortunately, becoming a ransomware victim can be costly from a financial perspective. It could also cause you, your business, and/or your customers to have sensitive personal information compromised.
What is Ransomware and How Can It Impact You?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software. During a ransomware attack, your computer or device data – including personal and/or business files, photos, and other information - is locked and encrypted by a hacker or cybercriminal.
A ransomware attack will typically be carried out using a “trojan” that is disguised as a legitimate file, with the victim being tricked into either opening or downloading it to their computer.
Then, just as its name implies, a “ransom” payment is demanded by the criminal – typically to be made within a certain window of time – in order for you to access your files again. If the ransom isn’t paid to the criminal, you could end up losing all of your data.
The concept of ransomware – which is also commonly referred to as “cryptoviral extortion” - was originated more than 20 years ago at Columbia University. This type of cyberattack generally follows three “rounds” of communication between the cybercriminal and the victim, which include:
- The attacker generating and releasing a “key pair,” where one is public and the other is private.
- The malware encrypting the victim’s data and then demanding the payment of a ransom to regain access.
- The victim paying the ransom and subsequently using the “key” to unlock their information. (Or alternatively, the victim not paying the ransom, and in turn, losing their data and information).
Will You Become the Victim of a Ransomware Attack?
Both individuals and businesses have been victimized by ransomware during the Coronavirus pandemic. For instance, according to Forbes, workers in the healthcare industry have been targeted with a dangerous new Windows ransomware campaign, using the Coronavirus as “bait.”
The threat, named “NetWalker” (and also referred to as Mailto), demands a high ransom price – and if the victims don’t pay, a whole host of medical data could be lost…at a time when it is needed the most.
Other examples of high profile ransomware attacks include the:
- WannaCry worm, which traveled automatically between computers, even without any user interaction
- CryptoLocker, a malware threat that locked its victims’ files using what is referred to as “asymmetric encryption.” In this attack, the virus displayed a warning screen that indicated that the victims’ data would be destroyed if they did not pay ransom to obtain the “key” to unlock it. The CryptoLocker ransomware attack was particularly profitable for hackers, bringing in an estimated $3 million before it was taken down by authorities.
- CryptoWall, which is a similar type of ransomware to CryptoLocker, and was estimated by the FBI to have accrued more than $18 for the cybercriminals.
The odds of becoming a ransomware victim have increased a great deal over the past few years. For instance, during the first six months of 2018, there were more than 181 million ransomware attacks – which represents an increase of more than 229% over the same period just one year prior. With that in mind, protecting yourself from a ransomware attack is essential.
How to Protect Yourself and Others from Becoming a Victim of Ransomware
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady, a highly active prosecutor of cybercrime, stated recently that he believes the country will see an unprecedented wave of cyber attacks and cyber fraud. So, how can you protect yourself from becoming a ransomware victim?
Oftentimes, a good offense is the best defense – and one way to put that strategy in place is with a cyber insurance policy. Cyber insurance can cover a wide range of incidents, including data breaches and lost information, as well as cyber hacking.
In addition, because many ransomware attacks can oftentimes lead to lawsuits from a company’s customers, it is also possible to obtain cyber liability insurance that provides coverage for legal and defense costs (usually up to a set dollar amount), as well as the cost of regulatory penalties and fines.
Putting Your Ransomware Protection in Place
As people around the world struggle with the impact of the Coronavirus, online criminals have put ransomware and other schemes into high gear. So, it is essential to protect yourself from these types of threats. One way to do so is with a cyber insurance policy for yourself and/or your business.
Just like with other types of insurance, though, there can be many options when it comes to cybersecurity protection. So, you must narrow down how much coverage you and/or your business may need, as well as any of the other parameters of the plan.
Also, because you want to ensure that the coverage will be there if or when you need it, going with an affordable policy through a top-rated insurance carrier is also essential. With that in mind, discussing your needs with a cybersecurity insurance specialist is recommended.
At 360 Coverage Pros, we can provide you with several alternatives, as well as a wide range of cybersecurity coverage quotes to help keep the policy within the range of your budget.
So, if you have any additional questions about how a cyber insurance policy can help – or if you’re ready to put your plan into place now – contact us directly via phone at (866) 807-3822. You can also email or chat online with a cybersecurity coverage expert at https://www.napa-benefits.org/cyber-liability. Our experienced representatives can have your cyber protection in place quickly so that you can focus on other things during this challenging time.
Jonathan Decker, Account Executive
Phone: (941) 757-0033
Jonathan has been with Gallagher Affinity since 2012 and is currently an account executive working with our Professional Liability insurance policies. His affinity for problem solving has continuously motivated him to take on new creative challenges and learn about a variety of subjects. He is considered a subject material expert and supervises our Real Estate, Cyber liability and Registered Investment Advisor errors and omissions programs. He holds a 2-20 Property and Casualty Agent license and a 2-15 Health & Life Agent License.
A native of Bradenton, FL, Jonathan graduated from Florida State University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science. Upon graduating, he was hired by The Walt Disney Company and completed their professional development internship program which lasted a year. After the internship, he moved back to his home town and started his career with Gallagher Affinity. In his spare time, Jonathan enjoys golfing, playing fetch with his dog, reading, attending live concerts, running and going to the beach.