The file-encrypting threat known as ransomware has been ransacking unsuspecting users for the past couple of years and the extortion money it’s generated has been fueling both cybercriminal activities and the active development of new ransomware strands.

With more than half of victims actually giving in to ransomware demands and paying somewhere between $300 and $500 to regain access to their files, experts state that cybercriminals have throttled up ransomware-delivering phishing campaigns to over 90 percent of all phishing emails.

This skyrocketing growth of ransomware is partly due to point-and-click ransomware kits that have been distributed via the Dark Web or underground forums, allowing even non-tech-savvy users to rapidly create, deploy, deliver, and monetize ransomware in practically no time at all.

Playing on Your Convenience

Ransomware comes in various flavours, targeting either the entire operating system, select files, or simply displaying a nag screen and trying to trick users into paying even through on rare occasions it doesn’t encrypt anything. However, it is far more lucrative for cybercriminals to simply restrict users from accessing specific files, such as spreadsheets, documents, pictures, and databases, rather than blocking users from accessing their entire operating system.

Whether you’re using a Windows, Mac, or Android device, cybercriminals have come up with ways to affect your operating system. As long as there’s information or data on the device you’re using, you would be willing to pay to regain access to it in case it got encrypted or unavailable, right? That’s what bad guys have been betting on.

This psychological tactic seems to pay off, as users are far more likely to give in to demands if their operating system is unaffected and the only thing they need to recover are critical files. If they were to be restricted from accessing the full operating system, they would simply go through a full and complete wipe and be done with it.

It’s like being stopped at a roadblock and a police officer tells you that you have to go back and find a different route. Normally you would listen to him and head the other way. But if he were to say to you that you can pass, but you have to pay a toll, then it’s an entirely different story. Playing on your convenience seems to work and cybercriminals know this.

How Do You Get Infected?

One of the most-used methods for infecting users is via spearphishing emails with malicious attachments or links. It might seem like an old school method, but it’s highly effective at tricking users into executing infected “invoice attachments,” such as zip files, documents, and even pdf files. It’s usually people that work with documents – accounting, event organizers, etc. – that fall prey to such scams.

While emails have their success rate, cybercriminals also opt for disseminating ransomware through legitimate – or not – websites that exploit unpatched vulnerabilities in browsers or plugins. As soon as users with outdated software – Java, browser, Flash Player, Adobe Reader, etc. – end up on these websites, vulnerabilities in these pieces of software are exploited and used to download and execute ransomware on the user’s machine.

For mobile devices it’s a bit different. When browsing, you might get some weird ads saying that your device is infected and that you need to install an app to disinfect it. However, that’s just the bad guys preying on your fears and trying to get you to install malicious apps that end up encrypting your SD card and preventing you from even making calls, until you pay up. Removing these apps is not easy either, as they can attach themselves to the operating system pretty hard, usually requiring some advanced knowledge if you want to regain access to your smartphone, while accepting that your SD card data has been lost.

Cybercriminals are nothing if not creative and they’ve constantly been developing new ways of infecting victims. With or without user interaction, their goal is to get a malicious payload on your system and make sure it’s executed.

Staying Safe is Mandatory

You need a security solution installed on all your devices. Whether you use a Windows PC or laptop, a Mac or an Android device, ransomware is present on all those platforms and more than able to reach for your pockets. Bitdefender’s Total Security Multi Device is more than capable of securing all those devices for you.

A comprehensive security solution can also discern whether the URLs you’re visiting - from any device – are malicious. To this end, it not only protects you from malicious files, but also from malicious websites and applications. Since emails are also considered main attack vectors, it’s vital that attachments are scanned before opening them to ascertain if they pose any risks.

To this end, keeping all your devices safe against ransomware or any other online threat is not only recommended, but mandatory. Otherwise, you might end up losing all your personal data and paying hefty ransoms to get it back.

While the question “How much is my data worth and am I willing to pay to get it back?” should be in the back of your mind, we recommend taking the proactive approach and getting Bitdefender Total Security Multi Device so that you can protect all your devices.

This article has been bought to you in assocation with Bitdefender

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