Microsoft: U.S., Italy and Canada Are Top Ransomware Targets
May 19 was Ransomware Info Day, a campaign launched by the Swiss Internet Security Alliance to help raise awareness about this particularly nasty type of malware. Microsoft, one of several backers of the outreach effort, is sharing some data about the spread of ransomware and some tips on how to avoid it.
Once ransomware worms its way into a victim's PC, it encrypts the user's files, effectively blocking access to the content stored on the infected system. Adding insult to injury, victims are typically instructed to pay a ransom to a botnet operator for the encryption key, enabling them regain access to their documents, photos and other files.
Ransomware can be a relatively minor inconvenience if users are diligent about regularly backing up their data—they can simply wipe their systems and start anew from a clean backup. For enterprise organizations, getting infected with ransomware can have a much larger impact.
Earlier this year, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center admitted it had paid a $17,000 ransom to decrypt data that had been rendered inaccessible by malware. According to a study conducted by the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST), 18 percent of midsize hospitals have been infected with ransomware.
The Microsoft Malware Protection Center tracks the spread of ransomware and offers tips on how to avoid it in observance of Ransomware Info Day.
In April, the FBI issued a bulletin alerting businesses to the alarming rise in ransomware attacks and the potential risks of not taking adequate precautions. "Paying a ransom doesn't guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—we've seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom," stated FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor in the bulletin.