Ransomware is a form of malicious software that locks up the files on computer, encrypts them, and demands that payment to get the files back. Wanna Decryptor, or WannaCry, is a form of ransomware that affects Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
When a system is infected, a pop up window appears, prompting to pay to recover all the files within three days, with a countdown timer on the window. Also, if the owner of the computer fails to pay within that time, the fee will be doubled, and if the ransom is not paid within seven days, the files are lost forever. Payment is accepted only with Bitcoin.
Ransomware spreads when it encounters unpatched or outdated software. WannaCry, a ransomware, had spread by an internet worm, software that spreads copies of itself by hacking into other computers on a network, rather than the usual case of prompting unsuspecting users to open attachments. The cyber attack was carried out with the help of tools stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States.
Some forms of malware can lock the computer entirely, or set off a series of pop-ups that are nearly impossible to close, thereby hindering work.
The malware only affects files that exist in the computer. Following precautions may help against Ransomware attacks:
- Regularly updating anti-virus program;
- Regular backup of files
- Enabling pop-up blockers;
- Updating all software periodically;
- Ensuring that the smart screen (in Internet Explorer) is turned on, which helps identify reported phishing and malware websites;
- Avoiding opening of attachments that may appear suspicious
India and Ransomware
Recently, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has issued an alert about an email-based ransomware, ‘Locky’. The ransomware, Locky, spreads through spam mails. It scrambles the contents of a computer or server and demands payment in bitcoins to unlock it. This is the third major ransomware attack this year after Wannacry and Petya, that crippled thousands of computers.
CERT-In is the national nodal agency under the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY), which deals with cyber security threats such as hacking and phishing. The agency is tasked with the collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber incidents and even taking emergency measures for handling cyber security incidents.