Nowadays, we’re all well aware of the threats that cybercrime poses to us as individuals and as a society. For years, tech and IT experts have been warning us about various forms of cybercrime, ranging from phishing to identity theft.
But one form of cybercrime that few of us would realize is on the rise and causing major problems for huge numbers of people is ransomware and ransomware attacks. Now, you may have heard this term thrown about, but few people actually understand what it is, who is carrying it out or why.
Our unfamiliarity with ransomware also leaves us prone to it, as we don’t know what to expect and what the warning signs of an attack may be. Here’s some more information on the subject, as well as 3 major ransomware attacks you may not have known about before!
What is Ransomware?
Put simply, ransomware is a specific type of malware, or “malicious software”, that essentially takes files — and sometimes entire computers or mobile devices — hostage. Generally, the owner of the computer, device or files will not be able to access these things until they pay a set sum of money to the cybercriminals who have carried out the ransomware attack.
Once payment is made, the cybercriminal hackers will return access or decrypt files they have encrypted. Of course, this is entirely unfair, as you shouldn’t have to pay for the return of something that you own. Generally, payments are requested in Bitcoin, so they can’t be tracked and so the criminal doesn’t have to face repercussions.
How Do I Know If I’m Experiencing a Ransomware Attack?
It’s pretty obvious when you do experience a ransomware attack. You’ll find that your device becomes inaccessible or your files suddenly become encrypted. Whether these devices or files contain work documents, personal photos and videos or anything else, chances are, you’re going to want access back.
The cybercriminals responsible for the attack will then contact you with their demands, promising to unlock your computer or decrypt your files once you’ve paid the ransom.
3 Ransomware Attacks You Didn’t Know About
Of course, there have been countless ransomware attacks carried out around the world. But here are three that you might not have heard of before.
The First Ransomware Attack
The first known attack was initiated in 1989 by Joseph Popp, PhD, an AIDS researcher. Popp distributed 20,000 floppy disks to AIDS researchers in more than 90 countries around the world, claiming that the disks contained a program that analyzed an individual’s risk of acquiring AIDS through the use of a questionnaire.
The disk also contained a malware program that initially remained dormant in computers. It was triggered after computers were rebooted 90 times and demanded a payment of $189 and another $378 for a software lease.
Back in 2017, there was a worldwide malware attack using the WannaCry malware cryptoworm. This attack targeted users with Microsoft Windows operating systems and demanded payment through Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
The Colonial Pipeline
The Colonial Pipeline is the largest pipeline system for refined oils in the US. It’s not all too surprising then, that those in charge of this asset, have a lot of money behind them and were a prime target for ransomware attack.
In 2021, just that happened. On May 7th, a malware attack triggered the shutdown of their operations, resulting in 12,000 gas stations being directly impacted. The CEO authorised a payout of $4.4 million to have their services restored.
As you can see, ransomware attacks are vicious and can be costly. Hopefully, some of the above information has helped to raise awareness of the importance of protecting yourself and your devices from them!