Cyber criminals are a tricky bunch, and rather persistent. We need to always be on our toes for phishing calls and e-mails, we need to be exceedingly skeptical of any link we click on, and we should always default to doubt when we receive all fifteen Candy Crush invitations from each of our friends and family members every single day. Seriously guys, I got stuck on stage 17 and never came back. Please give it a rest. Besides, you might be a cyber criminal.
A new-ish method of the unscrupulous that’s been making the headlines recently is something that’s being called Ransomware. It’s 2016; kidnapping the Mayor’s daughter and demanding a ransom with the conditions that we don’t involve Batman has become blasé. Nowadays, they just encrypt your servers and hold all of that sweet, sweet information for a literal ransom. What’s Batman gonna do about that? Batarang the encryption out of your servers? Nice try, Bats. The encryption itself is effectively unbreakable without the key that the criminals have, and it’s bordering on impossible to track the criminals down to Bat-interrogate the key out of them. Once your systems are fully encrypted, even the best anti-malware can’t reverse the damage. The best thing anyone can hope to do to get their information back is to pay the criminals and hope they’re good on their word. Perhaps that millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne could help us with that one.
Believe it or not, there’s honor among thieves. In many of the cases, once the ransom is paid, the information will be decrypted. But that doesn’t mean they’ll all play by the rules. Much like using “parley” in the Pirates of the Caribbean universe, the criminals operate more along guidelines. Regardless, having to pay criminals to get back what’s yours is a less-than-ideal situation.
The best thing for any of us to do is stay as vigilant as possible and keep any malware out of our systems. Make sure it’s actually your friends sending you those Facebook invites, and definitely don’t accept any from strangers. Get a strange e-mail from someone you know that you weren’t expecting? Call them up and confirm that they actually sent it to you. Or, if you’re too scared to sound accusatory, there are tools like www.virustotal.com that can scan files and URLs for any phishy (haha puns) activity. Or, we can always default to safety and delete that e-mail outright. Especially do this for e-mails from strangers. Standard vigilance can save the day for you, and when you consider the amount of damage a slip-up can cause, it can only stress how important it is to be mindful when using the internet. Bat-signals don’t work in real life.