It’s a typical weekday night; you’re sitting down on your computer, filing your taxes, watching hilarious YouTube videos, listening to music, or preparing your presentation for an incredibly important business meeting. Your computer seems perfectly fine, running the way it normally does. And then, suddenly, it hits you: a message claiming that your computer has an infection, that your files are encrypted, and that the only way to get your computer back to normal is by paying an extraordinary amount of money. These types of attacks are called ransomware, and they are far more common than you think.
Ransomware essentially holds your computer’s information hostage. Most can actually be easily reversed—granted the victim has some computer tech savvy—while others are far more in-depth, actually locking access to the system’s files. If you are fortunate enough to not have had this happen to you, you are in the majority. However, ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly more common.
According to an article from Forbes, 2016 saw a tremendous spike in the amount of ransomware attacks. The article mentions that the latest annual report from network security company SonicWall reveals that the number of ransomware attacks in 2016 jumped to a stunning 638 million from a modest 3 million in 2015. What’s worse, the report claims that the hackers received an estimated $209 million in the first quarter of 2016. To add insult to injury, the report also claims that not even half of the victims could recover their data fully.
Virus attacks such as these are nothing new, especially as society continues towards an increasingly computer dependent society, however, such a dramatic increase in viral attacks has not been seen in quite some time. And as long as these ransomware attacks continue to be effective, they will not slow down. They will only get larger.
This is precisely why you should make sure to install antivirus software on your computer in order to catch the problem. It is far better to be proactive about your computer’s health than reactive. So the next time you are purchasing a new computer at a retail store, make sure to think twice about the antivirus offer they give you. Spending a few extra hundred is better than potentially losing your personal information.