Hackers use ransomware to hold computers hostage
April 6, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1320 articles)
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Hackers use ransomware to hold computers hostage

(CNN) – A cyber epidemic is crippling businesses around the world.

The tech world calls it ransomware, which is a type of malicious software that blocks access to a computer system until a payoff is made.

An Apple operating system fell victim last month, and hackers are using ransomware against some other high-profile targets.

In a recent incident, a note popped up on dozens of computer screens in the Horry County, South Carolina school district. And then the screens were frozen.

The schools technology director, Charles Hucks, knew immediately that his computers were under attack and that his data were being held ransom.

After contacting the FBI and state law-enforcement officials, who did not help, the school system paid up, $10,000, to avoid weeks of delay while they restored their hundreds of servers from backup.

In another incident earlier this year, a California hospital found its computer systems frozen, held for ransom. The ransom was more than $16,000.

Adam Kujawa, director of malware intelligence, malwarebytes.org, works for a silicon valley company trying to fight what the industry has dubbed ransomware.

“It’s the one we hear about the most and it’s the one we see people asking for help about the most,” he said, “and, unfortunately, this isn’t the kind of attack that you can get infected with and remove it and you’re done. There’s no quick fix.”

Kidnappers demand the ransom paid in bitcoins, the anonymous internet currency that can’t be traced.

What’s also hard to trace is where the ransomware virus is coming from. It is usually accidentally installed by unwitting users, tricked into opening up its digital poison.

Noah Christianson-Stafford of Malwarebytes says the virus may be a picture that you thought you were getting from one of your co-employees and you just innocently don’t read it thoroughly and you click on it and all of a sudden now you’re infected.

Most companies pay to keep things quiet.

Source | Wdam