How serious a problem is Ransomware? The costs to people and businesses is well north of $200 million annually and it’s just looking for a way into your home and your devices!
When Sony was hacked by North Korea a few years ago, it was in retaliation for their movie, “The Interview”, which was about assassinating the country’s leader. At the time of the attack, Sony Entertainment’s CEO said that there was a “better than even chance” that the studio would have closed because of the hacking.
Netflix was hacked with ransomware as well, with the hacker demanding financial compensation or they would leak five episodes of Orange is the New Black (OITNB). When Netflix did not comply, the hacker followed through on his/her threat. Had Netflix caved in to the demands though, it would have opened the flood gates to them down the road.
Naturally, law enforcement recommends against paying the demands, but that is easier said than done. When it’s your computer that’s affected and your work and school files, along with precious family pictures and videos which are at risk, most people pay the ransom and hope that the criminal releases the files.
The key is prevention and some of the easiest steps to take are shown in the image below.
The first one is probably the most common way that viruses, including Ransomware, make their way into a device or network. Even the most innocuous looking link can be a Trojan Horse, just waiting to inject a device, including your phone. The problem with links is that they can look innocent, but take your computer to a very dark place.
Links from unknown sources are not to be trusted. Ever! That includes links sent to you by people you trust, as they could have been tricked and not know it. So when your college friend sends you a link that is supposed to show some amazing racing or funny cat videos, you could be the next person to fall for the trap.
It’s all too easy to make a link look innocent. There are several embedded links in this article already and they go to legitimate sites, Variety and Forbes. What many people don’t realize is that when you move your mouse over a link, it should show you somewhere on your screen where it will take you. That’s better than just trusting the words on the screen, as they can be manipulated to take you anywhere a hacker wants.
To show you what I mean, all four of the links below appear as though they will take you to my company’s Facebook page. The truth is that only one of them actually does what it appears to do. Can you tell which one that is? Don’t worry if you’re wrong, because the others take you to safe sites.
It gets even worse for abbreviated URL addresses, like these two examples:
This is where many people get trapped by Ransomware, because the preview that is available onscreen to show you were the link should take you may only show the shortened URL, not the actual destination. In the image below, similar URL are sent to unsuspecting users. Clicking on the link might download a virus, including Ransomware.
Be sure to check where the URL is actually taking you before you follow it and if in doubt, don’t follow it at all. Your computer will thank you for it.
About the Author
Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cybersafety advocate for several years. He is an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson University, where has been teaching several classes that involve using technology to improve the quality of their schoolwork.
As the founder of Safety Net, Joe provides a variety of presentations on improving online experiences, both in better educational performance and in cybersafety. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that got him involved in helping others in the area.
His work on cybersafety has been published by the Family Online Safety Institute, the Social Media Club, Calkins Media and more. He is also the author of #DigitalParenting- A Parent's Guide to Social Media, Cyberbullying &Online Activity, which was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in April 2016.