ransomeware

Move Over Ransomware – Here Comes Crypto-Jacking

Just when you feel like you’ve heard about all the cyber threats and attacks that can compromise your digital technology, you learn that hackers have discovered new methods of intrusion and infection.

It doesn’t just feel that way. That’s the way it is.

Don’t let our blog title mislead you, the threat, danger, and cost of ransomware still exist. It’s just that when ransomware artists realize that crypto-jacking is much easier and much more lucrative, the scammers are likely to jump on the new wave of tech crime.

The Effect of Ransomware

The average likelihood that a hacker will obtain a ransom via a ransomware attack is about three times out of 100 attacks. The current success rate for crypto-jacking is 100 out of 100.

In fact, crypto-jacking is escalating rapidly and, with the current fascination with the crypto-currency market on the rise, it is likely that the trend in cybercrime will follow. A recent report indicated that there were about 15,000 crypto-jacking alerts in May 2017. By February 2018, that number had risen to 280,000.

By now, you are probably wondering what crypto-jacking is. We certainly hope so. That’s why we are writing this blog. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Crypto-jacking does not attack your system per se. It infiltrates and enlists your devices to attack others. But this is not a case of “no harm, no foul.” Complex codes installed on your digital assets operate in the background, sending results to a server the hacker is using.
  • The codes find their way onto your system devices using tried-and-true phishing and malware techniques, i.e., by getting you to click on links in legitimate-looking emails or on infected pop-up ads on a website you are browsing.

In effect, your computer is being hijacked via old techniques, not to attack you, but to do mine cryptocurrencies from others.

The problem your system is that crypto-jacking is like a debilitating disease on your system’s devices. You can’t see it. It is not eating your lunch, but it is eating your resources. While you are enjoying your pastrami on rye, the codes are eating up your processing resources. Eventually, your digital technology will be working more for the hacker than it is for you. You probably won’t notice a thing until your computer is no longer performing wonders faster than a speeding bullet but acting like it wants to take a nap.

We want you to be informed. But we also want you to know that we’ve got your back. Tech Sentries monitors and protects your systems, even from unseen parasites like the codes running at the behest of crypto-jackers.

All we ask of you is to be steadfast in doing your part to keep yourself and other users of your system away from suspicious links and intriguing pop-up ads that may have more to offer you than advertised.

We are as concerned about your technology security as you are. Your computer system security is our business. That’s why Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “GUARD YOUR TECHNOLOGY” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

hospital ransomeware

The Frighteningly True Cost of Ransomware Part 2 – A Hospital Infected

If you were amazed at the ransomware statistics in the first article in this series, you will be stunned to discover the actual costs of several real ransomware attacks in this and the next several posts.

Dateline: Buffalo, NY

It usually takes a massive snowstorm to bring Buffalo to a crawl. On April 9, 2017, all it took was a single ransomware attack to bring the entire operating system of the Erie County Medical Center, a Tier 1 Trauma Center, to its knees. That infection affected hospital operations for over six weeks.

The Cost of Ransomware is More Than You Think

The ransom request was only $30,000. You might think that’s not bad for a hospital. Think again. The total cost of recovery exceeded $10 million. That is precisely why it is so crucial for us to warn our readers of the need to prepare for the potential of a ransomware attack. More on the ransom below.

When the attack unfolded, ransom notes began appearing on computer screens throughout the entire facility. Once the IT Department ordered all computers to be shut down, the hospital was forced to operate substantially as it did more than two decades ago. Everything from medical records to memos had to be managed by hand. The computer system belonged in the hospital. It was, in effect, disabled.

Infection, Treatment, and Recovery

  • One virus – 6,000 computers infected that had to be cleaned and restored.
  • One virus – so big that IT specialists from other hospitals, the NY State Police and the FBI were called in to assist.
  • One virus – no email communication for two weeks.
  • One virus – no electronic communication in the hospital lab and radiology department for three weeks.
  • One virus – no electronic processing of prescriptions for more than four weeks.
  • One virus – All electronic records for the 602-bed hospital had to be updated after the system was recovered.

What About the Ransom?

ransomewareWe don’t know the motives of the perpetrators. Frankly, when you are the victim, the criminals’ motivations don’t matter. What matters is the damage that they have caused. Think of, for instance, a patient in the ER with a heart attack. The cause of the attack is relatively unimportant. What matters most is that the person can regain his health and that steps are taken to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
The hospital followed the same protocol as it would when treating its patients. Identify the problem. Fix the problem. Begin a regimen to prevent the problem from occurring again.

The hospital did not pay the $30,000 ransom. They recognized that the payment was not the priority. The priority was restoring their system to operational health. The cost of recovery was just as devastating as major surgery would be for a person without healthcare insurance – if not more.

Lessons Learned

Prevention is the only inexpensive alternative to ransomware. The staff of the hospital would likely suggest ways for us to guard against infections, but it failed to defend against infections caused by ransomware.

A ransomware attack may not cost your business $10 million, but it will have a cost. You can be sure that the expense will be commensurate with, and potentially able to destroy, your business.

Tech Sentries works diligently to keep you aware of potential dangers and how to take a few, common-sense steps to Guard Your Technology and to ensure the safety of your data and devices.

Keep up to date with us as this series continues to unfold and to reveal the realities of ransomware – and what it could cost you and your business.

We are as concerned about your computer system security as you are. Your computer system security is our business. That’s why Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “GUARD YOUR TECHNOLOGY” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

ransomeware

The Frighteningly True Cost of Ransomware Part 1

ransomewareYou’ve heard the stories. You’ve seen the movies. Someone is abducted and held for ransom. From there the plot thickens and unfolds until, at last, the ransom is paid, the hostage is returned, and the criminals are caught.

However, by now you are beginning to understand that ransom in the 21st Century deals less with holding people hostage and more with blocking access to your computer and holding your data hostage.

Of course, that will never happen to you.

Or will it?

A Dose of Reality

People who think that they will never be attacked by ransomware are living in a fantasy world. Here is what is happening in the real world. Right here. Right now.

According to a report by Malwarebytes:

  • Companies, large and small, are attacked by ransomware every 50 seconds.
  • Individuals are attacked every 10 seconds.
  • Total ransomware damage is expected to exceed $5 billion dollars this year.
    • That’s $5,000,000,000.
  • 60% of all malicious cyberattacks in 2017 were ransomware.
    •  Advertising fraud comprise another 20%.
    • Download, backdoor, botnets, and all other forms of attack combined made up the additional 20%
  •  Ransomware variations have increased by 430% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in the previous year.
    • One readily-available ransom software package releases new updates approximately every 8.4 days!
  •  71% of companies targeted by ransomware have been infected.
  • 72% of all businesses lost access to their data for 2 days or longer.
    • 96% lost an entire day’s worth of data
    • 61% lost 3 or more days’ worth
    • 32% lost 5 or more days’ worth
  • 66% of all ransomware attacks now use network file-sharing protocols to infect computers.
    • These attacks do not require you or an employee to make an error in judgment.
    • They simply attack weak passwords or other security points.
  • 75% of corporate ransom attacks infect three or more employee workstations.
    • 50% of corporate ransomware attacks infect at least 20 employee workstations.
  • The most favored variant of ransomware spreads like an infection. Once it is in your system, it spreads from device to device.

A Warning of Things to Come

There is no apparent decline in ransomware attempts. There is no reason to expect that there will be. Consider these two facts which we will embellish in a following article:

1. Ransomware has become a lucrative cybercriminal business, garnering multiple millions of ill-gotten dollars. By “business” we mean central figures operating with affiliates who split the take.
2. Ransomware has attracted amateur wannabes. These people are more likely to get caught, but that does not lessen the degree to which they can inflict damage.

Tech Sentries works diligently to keep you aware of potential dangers and how to take a few, common-sense steps to Guard Your Technology and to ensure the safety of your data and devices.

Keep up to date with us as this series continues to unfold and to reveal the realities of ransomware – and what it could cost you and your business.

We are as concerned about your computer system security as you are. Your computer system security is our business. That’s why Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “Guard Your Technology” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

the state of ransomware

Why Small Businesses Should Be Very Concerned About Ransomware Attacks

the state of ransomwareIf you are thinking, “Oh, no. Not another article about ransomware,” you need to read the rest of this report.

CNN broadcasted a segment on July 27, 2017, informing viewers why small businesses in particular should be very concerned about potential ransomware attacks. The broadcast stemmed from the release of the “Second Annual State of Ransomware” study conducted by Osterman Research.

The Damage Is Often Worse Than the Ransom

In an earlier newsletter we shared the pervasiveness of ransomware. No one is immune from ransomware attacks.

The common mindset of small business owners is that ransomware protection is a priority for major enterprises as opposed to SMBs.

As it turns out, small businesses are at great risk and, proportionately, have much more to lose, according to the Osterman data. The greatest potential for SMB loss is not the ransom itself, but the damage resulting from the intrusion.

  • 16% of SMBs experienced operating downtime of 25 hours or more. Some were hobbled by more than 100 hours of downtime.
    • 93% of those (15% overall) suffered a loss of revenue due to the downtime.
  • 22% of SMB victims of ransomware attacks were unable to recover and subsequently had to close their doors.

Small Businesses Lack Adequate Reserves

“Cash reserves” is a standard business term that is seldom heard in the SMB realm. Small businesses typically operate on a small amount of capital. It is rare when small businesses include cash reserves in their budgets. The cash reserves set aside by their larger “cousins” do not make them less vulnerable to ransomware attacks, but they do help to mitigate the consequences of the aftermath of an attack.

Small Businesses Lack Adequate Resources

According to the report,

  • 27% of SMBs could not identify how their systems were accessed.
  • 33% reported the malware infection had spread to multiple network devices before being detected.
  • 64% of attacks in the U.S. were perpetrated by infected email attachments or links.

Small businesses seldom have the IT infrastructure of corporate discipline to ensure that their systems are adequately protected and that their employees are complying with company rules regarding internet security. For a variety of legitimate reasons, many SMBs do not have a disciplined way of keeping their digital security up to date.

Guarding your technology takes an awareness of potential dangers and a few, common-sense steps to ensure the safety of your data and devices, not the least of which is having regularly-scheduled system and software audits by digital security professionals.

Tech Sentries is as concerned about your computer system security as you are. Your computer system security is our business. That’s why Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “GUARD YOUR TECHNOLOGY” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

What in the World Are Hackers Thinking?

hackersWe already know what we think when our digital technology has been compromised by some &^%#$* hacker and her (yes, her!) virus, malware, ransomware, or phishing expedition. We get frustrated and downright angry. Have you ever wondered, what the hacker was thinking or what motivated her? We thought it might help to understand.

A recent report published by Government CIO indicated that,

“Most cyber criminals are motivated by the commission of a crime. It is a psychological issue that defines them as people with some super traits that cause antisocial behavior. Possibly, these people suffer from one or more forms of psychological disorders that seek to gain recognition or personal gain from illegal activities.

Other personality traits exhibited by the cyber criminals include “self-centeredness, grandiosity, callousness, and lack of remorse or empathy for others coupled with a charismatic, charming, and manipulative superficiality.”

Does that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling? We didn’t think so. Perhaps this will help. In late 2016 Digital Endpoint described eight common types of hackers along with some insights into what motives them.

TYPE PERSONA MOTIVATION
White Hat Good guys Companies employ them to test software, websites, and systems from criminal hackers.
Black Hat Guns for hire They get paid for stealing information by the people who want that information. They don’t care about the information per se.
Grey Hat Wolves in sheep’s clothing They test systems, but without permission. When they find a weakness, they try to sell their findings to their victims for a price.
Script Kiddies Trainees They use packaged software to disrupt systems and establish a reputation in the hacking community.
Hactivists Protesters They are employed by governments to gain information and/or attack foreign entities.
State Sponsored Warriors They hack to harass, expose, and exact revenge on entities to which they are opposed.
Corporate Spies Corporate Spies Corporate spies have existed for years. The internet and digital technology are just new tools.
Cyber Terrorists Terrorists They want to “spread fear and create chaos … by causing unrest.”

Did we mention that some hackers are women? Watch this video. It will give you even more insight in what in the world hackers are thinking.

Guarding your technology takes an awareness of potential dangers and a few, common-sense steps to ensure the safety of your data and devices, not the least of which is having regularly-scheduled system and software audits by digital security professionals.

Tech Sentries is as concerned about your computer system security as you are. Your computer system security is our business. That’s why Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “GUARD YOUR TECHNOLOGY” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

ransomware money

Five Things You Probably Did NOT Know About Ransomware

ransomware moneyOur mission at Tech Sentries is to help you “Guard Your Technology.” Part of helping you to “Guard Your Technology” is to keep you informed about threats to your computer system, like ransomware. We believe that keeping you informed is part and parcel of our commitment to you. We found this insightful information in a recent article in an online tech site.

Ransomware Lesson #1

It can be much easier to steal your business or personal information and hold it ransom than to kidnap someone in your family.

Holding information for ransom may be less lucrative per instance, but the crime can be perpetrated a virtual plethora of times with the potential capability of accumulating a great deal of ill-gotten gain from multiple sources. Although some criminals may take the short path to large sums of cash, the opportunity is now open to treacherous techies who are willing to commit the crime numerous times on a smaller scale.

Just because you are not a big business or personally wealthy does not exempt you from ransomware attempts.

Ransomware Lesson #2

Ransomware is not a virus. The computer term “virus” was coined because, like a live virus, it infects your computer files. Ransomware locks your files so that you cannot access them.

Ransomware Lesson #3

You do not have to click on anything in particular to be the victim of a ransomware attack. Although phishing is a method used in some ransomware attacks, it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only method of attack.

We always strongly advise our clients to be careful what you click. Understand, however, that this may not make you immune to a ransomware attack. It is, nonetheless, a good habit to develop to guard your technology.

 

Ransomware Lesson #4

You do not have to visit questionable websites to become a victim of ransomware. Although that may make you more vulnerable to attack, the masters of the ransomware craft tend to use the most innocuous of sites to carry out their schemes. Their whole point is to catch the innocent unaware.

Ransomware Lesson #5

You can guard your technology against ransomware. Although traditional antivirus software has yet to provide foolproof protection against ransomware, whitelisting has come to the forefront as one of the best defenses available. Read our recent blog post about whitelisting here. You will understand in more detail why whitelisting is so successful and why you should use it.

 

You should be concerned about ransomware, but you are not alone and defenseless in the computer world. Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “GUARD YOUR TECHNOLOGY” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

ransomware statistics

Alarming Statistics About Ransomware

For some inexplicable reason, each of us tends to believe that we are immune to catastrophic events, including diseases, natural disasters, and crimes. Unfortunately, we carry that same naivete over to guarding our technology. Just as we think that no harm will befall us personally, even though it does, we believe that are computers are also immune – even though we have no reason to believe that they are.

Eye-opening Ransomware Statistics

ransomware statisticsSome people are motivated by statistics that evidence growing vulnerability. Others become motivated when disaster strikes someone they know. Still others do nothing until they have become infected or affected. We hope the following statistics will increase your awareness of the reality that you can become a victim of a ransomware attack.

  • There are more than 4,000 ransomware attacks reported every day.
  • It is estimated that less than 25% of attacks are report.
  • 30,000 to 50,000 digital devises are infected with ransomware each month.
  • The amount of money paid in ransom increased dramatically from 2015 to 2016.

 

Year Ransom Paid
2015 $24 million
2016 $850 million

 

Year Average Paid
2015 $294
2016 $679

More Convincing Statistics

Ransom paid is only part of the problem. Ransomware attacks cause expensive downtime for businesses.

  • 63% of business attacked by ransomware suffered downtime.
  • 34% lost money as a result of the downtime alone.
  • 20% were forced to close permanently.

Small Business Are Not Immune

Myth: “My business is too small for anyone to bother attacking.”

Fact: A recent survey reported that, on average, small businesses lose an aggregate of $8,500 per downtime hour. That is an annual total of $75 billion.

These statistics may not alarm you. They should. You need to take the necessary precautions to protect your business and your home computers from ransom attacks.

Yes, you should be concerned about your computer system security, but you should also know that you are not alone and defenseless in the computer world. Tech Sentries is always on duty. Contact us today to learn how we can help you “GUARD YOUR TECHNOLOGY” (843-282-2222).

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

old methods cant stop ransomware

Why Old Methods Can’t Stop Ransomware

During the American Revolution, sentries guarding encampments reportedly shouted, “Halt! Who goes there? Friend or foe?” As far as we know, there are no statistics that indicate how many foes identified themselves as such – or lived to tell about it.

Ransomware is not easily identified

As of this time, conventional anti-virus software is about as effective at identifying ransomware as Revolutionary War sentry was at identifying friend or foe. We do have some statistics for the current day.

A recent survey of 500 companies found that

  • 33% had been attacked by ransomware in the previous 12 months
  • More than half of those companies were operating multiple anti-virus software at the time.

old methods cant stop ransomware

Think about that.

  • Of 500 companies,165 had been attacked by ransomware
  • Of those 165 attacked, 87 were employing multiple lines of defense.

That’s like having multiple perimeters of sentries, none of which would identify the foe.

There’s a reason for that.

The common approach is called blacklisting. Software already identified as “foe” is blacklisted. The problem is that the software cannot be identified as evil until it has permeated someone’s defense perimeter. Once identified as malware, conventional anti-virus publishes, in effect, “Wanted” posters so that computers can recognize software already known to be malicious.

There’s a solution for that

The solution is in implementing the opposite of blacklisting. Computer techies call it “whitelisting.” Instead of issuing wanted posters, a whitelisting approach allows only known friends to pass.

Pernicious thinkers amongst our readership might be thinking that ransomware can disguise itself by wearing someone else’s clothes. Not so. If ransomware producers think that they can masquerade as a friend, they will be sorely surprised to discover that they are wearing the proverbial Emperor’s New Clothes. The ruse will be discovered, and the attempt at ransom will fail.

Are you adequately protected against ransomware? Don’t think so. Know so. Contact us and let us show you how you can be sure that you are protected.

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

ransomware Myrtle Beach

Cerber Ransomware Kicks Into High Gear During Post-Holiday Shopping

ransomware Myrtle BeachAfter a relatively calm period, the researchers at Microsoft are warning that the ransomware known as Cerber has resurfaced stronger than ever. The target audience? Holiday and post-holiday shoppers. It also targets the data files of enterprise businesses.

Most of us are a little more aware of the need for cyber security during the holidays, but the need is equally important after the holidays! The Malware Protection Center at Microsoft has reported that the cyber attackers have amped up their game during this post-holiday season. One reason is the number of online shoppers looking for great deals after Christmas.

Top security researchers are now aware of a couple of new campaigns and spam that pinpoints all the consumer transaction during the post-holiday season. Cerber ransomware is constantly changing, causing user files to be encrypted while holding them for ransom. Just in the last several weeks the authors of Cerber ransomware are now attacking critical applications of major business files.

The newest version of this ransomware has been programmed to target the database files of Microsoft Acess, Oracle and MySQL. It’s not unusual for these files to be shut down as they are encrypted by malware.

As with so many other viruses, attackers are going straight for your inbox and flooding them with malicious links and downloadable attachments. As soon as you click on the link, the virus moves in, installing the ransomware. What’s worse is that it creates what looks like zip files that are password protected. The body of the email often contains the password, making this another huge red flag for malware. It usually states that order and delivery details are in the email.

Vulnerabilities found in previous Adobe Flash websites can also be used to exploit Cerber. If a person happens to be on this site, they will unknowingly download the malware to their computer. What’s more, any information on the version of Cerber ransomware has been scrubbed, which makes it even harder to track.

Unfortunately, an even wider net has been cast by Cerber and it’s now targeting dozens more types of files. Executing .exe, .cmd, and .msi files is now happening for the first time with Cerber ransomware.

Cyber criminals have to constantly be changing and updating their versions of ransomware in order to go undetected by antivirus software programs. Ramping up the malware complexities tells us how determined these criminals are to destroy and attack your personal files. Don’t become a victim—never click on unfamiliar links in your email! Use common sense and close out any ads or emails with suspicious links.

For more information on cyber criminals and how to stay safe from ransomware, call Tech Sentries today! (843) 282-2222.

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

Ransomware Myrtle Beach

Why Backups Aren’t Enough

Perfect backups will not always prevent the consequences of a ransomware attack, but backing up is vitally important.

Myrtle Beach Ransomware

 

The Problem with Ransomware:

A high-profile ransomware attack hit a well-known transportation agency over a recent holiday weekend.  This attack was a major eye-opening event, to say the least.  For the first time, a major transportation agency has been shut down by a ransomware attack.  To give you a few details, they estimated that approximately 900 of the computers in this agency were affected.  They were using backups and this provided them with the ability to restore data with no intentions of paying the ransom; so one would assume all was well.  Not exactly…

The transportation agency’s use of backups prevented them from losing all their customer and internal data.  The use of a simple backup prevented a major catastrophe for this agency.  Without the backups, they would have been faced with paying the ransom in this case, or been faced with heavy financial losses.  It took approximately 2 to 3 days in order for most of the computers to be restored and the rest followed within the week.  A large portion of their workforce was inaccessible for several days and some parts were down for almost an entire week.

The inability to work and work properly is going to cost any business money and valuable resources.  With the transportation agency’s computers inaccessible, they had to shut down the terminals and payment systems, allowing the public to ride the metro for free.  Many local articles stated that the systems being down was costing the agency $500K for every day that they were down and not working. This ransomware attack cost this transportation agency over a million dollars in the time they were down and not running.  Backing up a system can save data and is very important, but many times it is not quick enough to get you back online without losing valuable time.     

The Solution:

The story of the transportation agency demonstrates the vital importance of prevention when it comes to ransomware attacks.  In order to eliminate this problem before it begins, it’s important to put your emphasis on prevention instead of detection and recovery.  We believe that prevention is the only way to protect your business investment, and that is why we use global application whitelisting. Whitelisting allows you to avoid organized attacks and targeted areas because unknowns are always blocked no matter how new they are.  We have no way of knowing what antivirus protection the agency was using, but even with their backups they suffered huge financials losses due to downtime.

Prevention is key!  If you have any questions about ransomware attacks and how to keep your business protected, please give us a call at 843-282-2222 TODAY!

Joe Thibodeau
Tech Sentries Inc
6251 Lindsey Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
843-282-2222 Office/Fax
843-902-6885 Cell
https://www.techsentries.com

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