Firms warned to be prepared for "ransomware"

Specialist malware attacks by viruses nicknamed “Ransomware” are on the rise, according to experts, with twice as many attacks globally in 2015 as in 2014.

The malware works by encrypting files and demanding a ransom – usually in bitcoins – to decrypt the files.

In light of attacks in the US law enforcement officials have taken the unusual step of recommending firms pay it.

Joseph Bonavolonta, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cyber and Counterintelligence Program in its Boston office said: “The ransomware is that good, to be honest, we often advise people just to pay the ransom.

“The amount of money made by these criminals is enormous and that’s because the overwhelming majority of institutions just pay the ransom.”

However there are ways to stop it affecting your own hardware in the first place. Here are four steps as recommended by security experts Trustwave.

1: Back everything up regularly

You can’t be held to ransom if you haven’t lost access to your files. If you back up your files diligently there won’t be any problem when you need to recover information.

2: Disconnect the compromised machine from the network

This will stop the attacker controlling the machine, although it won’t stop the encryption itself.

3: Regularly update and patch your anti-malware software

Malware will require an unpatched vulnerability to run, so keeping your software as up-to-date as possible will reduce your exposure.

4: Spread awareness

Ransomware attacks often start just like all other malware attacks, by persuading the victim to open up something hiding something nefarious, be it a particular website link or dodgy code hidden away in email attachments.

Be aware that spam emails will be disguised as something you’re expecting or were hoping to receive, such as tax rebates, invoices or something else.

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