As technology advances, so do criminals. While most of us are well aware of malware and viruses, we should all take notice of a new brand of data thievery that is becoming more prevalent by the day.
Ransomware is software that encrypts your files and demands a ransom payment (in the form of a ransom note on your screen, no less) if you want your data to remain alive. How much would you pay for a decade worth of family photos, for instance, with a digital gun to your head?
A recent report shows that ransomware is a genuine threat to individuals, small business and corporate users alike. Ransomware developers combine file encryption with “dark” networks to conceal the attacker, and they demand payment in “cryptocurrencies” (which are digital forms of payment that don’t use a central bank, such as Bitcoin) to prevent law enforcement from tracing the ransom payment back to the attacker’s den. The computer system for Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was hacked in February and held ransom for $3.6 million (in the form of 9,000 Bitcoins).
It’s evil. And it’s genius. And it’s here to stay.