If malware and viruses weren’t enough to worry about, every day people continue to be targeted by ransomware, software designed to block access to networks, systems, and files, often in the form of a contaminated email or application, until a sum of money, usually around $300 or so are paid. Most of the time, the ransom note includes a blackmail threat.
Recently, two ransomware groups went straight to the top, targeting CEOs of public companies and telemedicine employees.
First seen last August, Venus is a ransomware group reported by the US Department of Health and Human Services that targets healthcare organizations.
However, after she supposedly had some trouble getting paid, Venus has since changed to targeting CEOs in public companies, framing them for insider trading, carefully tampering with their emails and turning them into incriminating messages.
Aiming for the meek and mighty
Meanwhile, another ransomware group known as CLOP has continued to target healthcare professionals, sending them malware disguised as ultrasound images or medical documents.
CLOP even went a step further, this time blackmailing the customers of the ransomware victims, urging them to tell them to pay up or their personal information will be leaked to the dark web.. Reports have shown that CLOP members were part of a long-standing malware group called TA505, known for frequently changing its malware and influencing trends.
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How to deal with ransomware
Unfortunately, it’s not just the rich and powerful who are affected by ransomware. Sadly it could happen to any of us. If they tell you to “pay up or else” fear not, as there’s a more than likely chance that you won’t have to pay a dime.
Determine what type of ransomware you have
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If you find yourself with a ransom note but can access your files and apps, then you probably weren’t hit by real ransomware and have little to worry about. However, just in case, it’s wise to force close all programs, restart your computer, and run any antivirus software just in case.
Screen lock ransomware
Screen lock ransomware happens if you can’t get past the ransom note or if you get a tip from the police, IRS or FBI claiming you owe them money. Screen lock ransomware isn’t as bad as it could be, as long as you follow these steps.
- Disconnect before the ransomware spreads and disconnect your machine from any external hard drives or other devices
- Take a screenshot or photo of the ransom note to give to the police.
- Restart your computer in “safe mode”, it will reboot and run the antivirus software.
If you’re having trouble accessing any of your files or downloads, chances are you’ve been affected by encryption ransomware, which could pose a more serious problem. If this happens, follow the steps above as if it were a lock screen ransomware and then:
- See if you can open or recover any files that you couldn’t before
- Use a program like crypto bailiff to try to determine what type of ransomware you are dealing with.
- Run any decryption tools you may have
Restore all files from your most recent backup.
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How to avoid ransomware
Generally speaking, a little common sense will protect you from ransomware more than anything else, as the best ways to avoid becoming a victim are:
- Don’t open a link from an email address you don’t recognize
- Do not download attachments from unknown emails
- I don’t agree to enable macros when asked
- Back up all important documents to a flash drive or external hard drive
- Update your software regularly
- Invest in good antivirus software, such as full VA, our most recommended antivirus protection of 2022, available for PC, Mac, Android and iPhone. You can read my Best Antivirus Reviews on the best protection for your devices by searching for “Best Antivirus” on CyberGuy.com.
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Do I have to pay the ransom?
This is, in fact, quite a difficult question.
If the ransom note appeared to be fake, or if you were sent screen-locking software, most would say no, as these are easily flagged as weak attempts to scam you.
However, in the case of an encrypted file, it can be a bit more complicated. The crooks are likely to discover the files after the payment. However, that is by no means a guarantee. Even if the ransom amount is not something that will ruin you financially, you will still be enabling the hackers by paying them. Most tech companies, not to mention law enforcement, strongly advise against paying.
Be sure to share this information with your elderly loved ones and be on the lookout for other scams on the rise.
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