The novel coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Governments and various local authorities around the world have imposed social distancing and stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the deadly virus. However, these mandates have resulted in unprecedented cybersecurity consequences. More people are working from home, using personal devices on potentially unsecured networks.
This situation has created the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals to infiltrate systems, steal data, and extort money from consumers and businesses. Ransomware, a type of malware that allows attackers to encrypt and hold system files for ransom, has become particularly common during the pandemic. Attackers are also preying on Covid-19 fears to lure users into clicking links or sharing sensitive information such as login credentials.
Rise of Ransomware Attacks During Covid-19
Phishing emails are the most common entry point for ransomware attacks. Reports indicate a nearly 700% spike in phishing emails since February. These attacks are designed to capitalize on the fear and anxiety brought about the coronavirus crisis. To lure clicks and engagements, attackers are increasingly crafting fake messages that look as if they originate from organizations such as Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ransomware disguised as contact tracing apps and data report websites have also been rising since the beginning of the pandemic. Ransomware attacks targeting healthcare providers in particular in the United States and Europe are also on the rise, forcing these institutions to pay up when they can least afford downtime. This worrying global trend of opportunistic ransomware attacks became apparent when hospitals in the Czech Republic were targeted in a series of devastating ransomware attacks.
Ransomware Prevention and Tips to Protect Your Data
During the coronavirus pandemic, cybercriminals are employing a variety of tactics in an attempt to steal sensitive user information and shut down business operations. Individuals and businesses alike are susceptible to ransomware attacks. The risk of attack is precipitated by the new normal that is remote working. Below, we look at some of the cybersecurity measures you can take to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack.
1. Create a Backup
A robust backup strategy is one of the most effective ways to defend against a ransomware attack. A proper backup helps you get back up and running after an attack. Make sure that you have a diversified backup by storing your files on the cloud using services such as Dropbox, locally on portable storage devices, etc. Set read/write permissions to prevent anyone from erasing or modifying your system files.
2. Email Security
Email is one of the most popular methods of spreading ransomware. Configure your email servers to block suspicious emails. Email security should also be part of your cybersecurity training. Teach your employees how to differentiate between phishing emails and genuine emails and not to open suspicious links or attachments. Make sure that employees get training on how to pinpoint common phishing email characteristics.
3. Install a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy and maintain your data security. It encrypts all your web traffic and allows you to hide your location. Connecting to a VPN is especially important when using a public Wi-Fi network to access the internet. Public Wi-Fi networks are full of cybercriminals who can take advantage of lax security measures to steal your login credentials and personal information.
Ransomware attacks have become increasingly common in recent years, more so during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ransomware is a type of malicious code designed to encrypt systems files and hold them for ransom. Having cybersecurity tools such as VPN, antivirus software, etc. installed on your device coupled with common sense cybersecurity measures reduces the risk of a ransomware attack significantly.