A Ransomware is a type of malicious software, who blocks the access to a computer system until the victim pays a sum of money. If your computer has a ransomware installed, it might block you from accessing your computer until you pay a certain amount of money (usually with Bitcoins) to the hackers who have developed and distributed the software.
For this reason, many people associated Bitcoin with this term, resulting in various negative media spotlights on the rather innovative digital currency. Privacy issues regarding Bitcoin have also been in the centre of attention as with the ransomware, WannaCry a.k.a. WCry, and their use of 3 different Bitcoin addresses. Authorities announced that they have successfully tracked and traced all Bitcoin transactions within these addresses and found over $80,000 worth of Bitcoins, stored in these addresses.
This negative association has helped build an invisible wall between new prospective users and Bitcoin as a form of payment. It has long been damaging the overall reputation of the currency, shadowing its innovative features and technology.
Why do criminals use Bitcoin?
Hackers and criminals like using Bitcoin much due to its element of privacy, impossibility to counterfeit, and immunity to fraudulent chargebacks and irreversible transactions. Along with these features, it is also globally useable, allowing one to send or receive Bitcoins almost instantly at anytime and anywhere around the world.
Ransomwares often have step-by-step guides integrated within the software, showing their victims how to purchase and send Bitcoins to their address. They often ask victims to register on online cryptocurrency exchanges. They verify their identity, connect their bank accounts or deposit money through credit/debit cards. Once this finishes, users can purchase Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies through the exchanges.
Hackers either manually uninstall the software from their victims’ computers or automatically uninstall it once they check and verify the payment. Although, many end up not getting the software uninstalled even if they pay the hackers/criminals.
How to avoid having ransomwares?
There are a few ways to avoid having ransomwares as such installed on your computers. Firstly, be sure to have a legitimate anti-virus and anti-trojan software installed on your computer. If you already have one, be sure to edit the settings so that it automatically checks and updates your computer. Conduct virus and Trojan checks regularly.
Secondly, be sure to back up your files and data regularly. Store important ones on your personal USB drives or store it through Cloud Storage solutions such as Google Drive. This way, you can always access your files and data even if someone hacks your laptop or computer with a ransomware.
Thirdly, be wary of emails, apps, and websites – especially those offering ‘free’ stuff for ‘downloading’ something. Usually, victims download ransomware out of their own will. They don’t realize that what they are downloading is a ransomware. Be extra cautious of emails and websites asking you to ‘download’ something. If you find suspicious emails, delete them immediately. Don’t click on any links or open the email.
If you follow these three simple steps, Ransomware shouldn’t concern you. Or at least not as much as it seems to concern everybody around the world. New type of ransomwares are being developed day by day. It’s best to prevent rather than trying to come up with a solution after you have been affected.