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Ransomware has accounted for $209 million in damages between April 2014 and June 2016. It is also estimated that $1 Billion will be paid out to ransomware hackers by the year 2020.
Although there are many types of ransomware, all of them utilize what is called asymmetric encryption: one key (the public key) to encrypt the files and another key (the private key) only known to those who created it. The attackers use an email address or a URL as a destination where they send this private key, so the victim can access their encrypted files after paying a ransom fee. Then symmetric encryption is used as an anti-tam measure where the private/public keys are used to encrypt/decrypt all files.
Both types of encryption use what is called an asymmetric cipher. The ciphers on each side of the equation (one on your side, one on the hacker’s side) must be kept secret so that only they know what it is. But if there were a way for you to keep your private key on your computer and the public key could be sent to the ransomware manufacturer, you would then not have to pay any fees because you could decrypt the data yourself. And this new program presents exactly that solution using what is known as homomorphic encryption; where decryption works without having access to the private/public keys, since every time one attempts to decrypt something with their own key.
The most frequent way to contract ransomware is the same as I’ve stated in this post, which is the most popular strategy for infection. If you download some sort of file from an unknown source or torrent, then there’s a chance that it will infect your computer. Now what usually happens is that on top of whatever data you had stored on your computer would have all been deleted. There are some cases where people have paid for their files to be decrypted, and they haven’t received them back, so it’s really not worth forking over hard-earned money if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, but instead try utilizing what is called shadow volume copies. This allows you to restore previous versions of what has now been encrypted. This is available through Windows’s own system restore, or through something like backup software.
Last but not least, there are also ways to protect yourself from ransomware by simply having safe practices when browsing the web and whatnot. It’s a fairly simple thing that you can do. One example would be not downloading files just because they seem interesting, especially if they come from an unverified source. Another would be getting into the habit of using what is known as a sandbox environment for opening suspicious or unknown files, so basically creating a separate virtual machine whenever you want to test out some new software or what have you. Just follow basic common security sense, and it’ll help keep your data safe!
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