In this day and age it’s important to take internet security very seriously. There are multiple threats that can potentially bombard computer systems on a daily basis, including various viruses and malware. One potentially deadly malware to safeguard against is ransomware. This type of malware is particularly nasty because it’s used to extort money from those it has infected. Essentially, ransomware locks up access to an infected computer and prevents anyone logging in until a demanded payment is met.

With who-knows-what-kind-of-payment-demand on the line, it is important for businesses and individuals to protect themselves against this kind of malicious threat. Ransomware is a threat so serious that Herjavec Group, a cybersecurity company, has projected it could have a global cost of $1 billion this year, ZDNet reported. Ransomware has increased in notoriety alongside the increased use of digital currencies, like Bitcoin. One Bitcoin has a current exchange rate of about $600. A price tag like that speaks to the unfortunate success of the malware. And because of that success, the Herjavec Group predicts that raRansomware attacks are likely to increase over the remainder of 2016 and into 2017. PC Mag highlighted one terrifying ransomware incident when the 434-bed Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, was effectively shut down after hackers breached its security. The hospital was forced to pay $17,000 (or 40 bitcoins at the time) to regain control. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money for a hospital, but when one thinks of the frequency of successful attacks, those small ransoms add up in a hurry. If an email with an attachment is not from a known or trusted source, mark it as spam and delete it without opening. If unsure of the sender, Entrepreneur recommends using an online office viewer like an email preview that will allow you to read the document without “hidden macros or funny stuff” opening up.

“Ransomware is a real threat to businesses large and small. The ability exists for attackers to infiltrate business systems and install software that will take over individual systems,”

Chance Ellis

“Ransomware is a real threat to businesses large and small. The ability exists for attackers to infiltrate business systems and install software that will take over individual systems,” said Chance Ellis, eResource’s director of systems engineering.

Ransomware is able to infect computers in ways similar to other viruses – corrupt websites and attachments. That means the ways to protect yourself are similar. In its report on ransomware, PC Mag said businesses and individuals should invest in good security software, keep applications up to date and do not open attachments from unknown senders. Most everyone knows that the Nigerian prince email is a scam and laughs about it, but the more vicious attacks are cleverly disguised to appear as if it is coming from a legitimate source. Additionally it is highly stressed that businesses and individuals back up their files on portable hard drives or other servers in order to prevent the loss of data should a breach occur.

These all seem like simple concepts to adopt, but with the rise in the notoriety of ransomware, it seems like these simple tools are either not being used correctly, or the ransomware black hats are getting around the safeguards.

“Businesses need to carefully plan and execute a comprehensive security plan to mitigate the risks ransomware presents. In order to combat against ransomware, a security plan should consist of next generation firewalls, intrusion prevention and malware detection systems and a strong backup strategy,” Ellis said. “Backups are key as certain strains of ransomware can infect systems but sit idle for a random period of time before locking the system. These types of ransomware are especially troublesome as they tend to search for attached backup systems to infect them as well. It is important that the backup systems are only active while backing the system up. The goal of ransomware is to prevent users from accessing their data until payment is made so the software is made to find all of the user’s data whether it is local, in the cloud or on a backup system.”