If you’ve heard of ransomware attacks, but are confident that you’re not a target — think again. Your personal devices and network are at risk, and so are the businesses and organizations with whom you and your family interact. Consider that:
The fact is, ransomware attacks are a threat to everyone. That’s why it’s vital to know how to identify cybercrime and protect yourself.
Ransomware is malware that attempts to prevents users from accessing data by encrypting it with a cryptographic key that is known only to the hacker1. The data — which is typically critical to business or system operations — is unusable until the victim pays a ransom. A pop-up message on the locked screen notifies the victim of the ransom’s terms. In some cases, the hacker threatens to sell the encrypted data.
Verizon estimates that in 2020, ransomware attacks accounted for 27% of all malware activity. This is a 20% increase from 20192. These attacks can result in:
Initially, ransomware criminals attacked personal computers; however, these professionals are increasingly targeting government entities, non-profit organizations and businesses of all sizes. According to PNC Enterprise Technology & Security experts, small to medium-sized business are primary targets because they often have a simple network infrastructure, lack dedicated IT and security personnel, or have insufficient access to control policies.
The FBI doesn’t recommend paying ransom to any criminals because:
Ransomware attackers are professional, organized criminals. According to PNC Enterprise Technology & Security, they reinvest the ransoms to develop better attack tools and talent.
REMINDER: If you receive a suspicious email or text that claims to be from PNC, forward it to PNC Cyber Defense at email@example.com, and include background information in your email.
Attackers have many methods of delivering malware, including:
The best defense is prevention. The tips below, while not all-inclusive, can help protect your business and personal devices from attack:
If you receive a ransomware message, stop it from spreading to shared network resources (such as file shares) by:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), "Small Business Cybersecurity Corner Glossary," accessed May 17, 2021, https://www.nist.gov/itl/smallbusinesscyber/cybersecurity-basics/glossary
2020 Verizon, “2020 Data Breach Investigations Report,” accessed May 17, 2021, https://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/reports/2020/2020-data-breach-investigations-report.pdf
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