Awareness : Newsletter Articles

Ransomware: What You Need to Know

Cybercrime continues to generate huge profits for criminals so it’s no secret that hackers are getting more sophisticated with their attacks.  Ransomware is a malicious piece of software designed to block access to a computer system until payment is received. This method continues to be one of the most common cyber security attacks. You may have seen in the news that in May, the WannaCry virus affected over 230,000 systems in 150 different countries all within a single day. This attack was caused by ransomware. New variants of ransomware, such as “Petya” which affected systems worldwide this week, continue to be actively released and may be more dangerous than the last.  These threats may be encountered through a variety of means and are typically downloaded onto a system unknowingly.

There are two types of ransomware – encryption and non-encryption. Encryption holds files hostage by encrypting or “scrambling” them to prevent use.  Victims are then asked to purchase a decryption key to undo the scramble and save their files.  Non-encryption, also referred to as “lock screen”, blocks access to applications and essentially prevents use of the system completely until the ransom is paid. Sadly, in most cases, paying any ransom will not save your system.

Employees are urged to use caution when browsing the web and opening files of any kind.

Below are some helpful tips to protect yourself and the University:

Only access websites that are reputable and trustworthy.

  • Use caution when downloading or opening files.
  • Be wary of suspicious links within emails or on websites. As a general rule… DO NOT click! Even if the email looks legitimate, it can be a scam.
  • DO NOT open unknown or unrequested attachments.
  • Back up important data on a daily or weekly basis. This is critical and allows access to a copy of your files in the event of an attack.
  • Perform regular scans using an up-to-date anti-virus software.
  • Keep your computer’s operating system and software up-to-date to avoid vulnerabilities.
  • Log out of systems when not in use.
  • Avoid using public or unsecure Wi-Fi. UM now provides employees with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect you when using an unsecured network.

Don’t become a victim to cyber-attack!  If you notice something suspicious or think your computer may already be compromised, contact UMIT at 305-243-5999 immediately.