Simple. Digital. Drama-free.

In the modern digital age, hacking as term has become ubiquitous with malicious acts performed using technology. In that sense, the general idea of hacking can be done in many different ways. Occasionally, hacking is simply a milestone to reach. Proving that something could be hacked is good enough for some, and their purpose may have been altruistic, helping to plug holes in a security system. But not every hacker is friendly, and indeed many are out to harm or take advantage of people.

Many types of malware exist, all having a purpose to damage or disrupt computers, networks, or clients. Here we will discuss a specific type of malware that often targets large corporations or municipalities: ransomware. Once introduced within a system, ransomware can copy sensitive information or encrypt and block data from the intended users. Just as its name would imply, ransomware then seeks financial restitution for not releasing or not destroying the important material.

You may have heard recently that the city of New Orleans was the victim of a ransomware attack. This attack affected government sites and servers from a vast number of departments. This led to the mayor declaring a state of emergency and all of the government sites being taken offline until the problem could be fixed.

How can we avoid falling victim to ransomware and hackers? By taking some simple cybersecurity steps, it is possible to mitigate the risk posed by malicious online groups.

  1. Use strong passwords. Weak or re-used passwords are easy ways for hackers to gain access to private systems.
  2. Backup data regularly. If certain ransomware if withholding information, a separate, offline back up can prevent it from being a larger issue.
  3. Patch and update software. Many versions of ransomware rely on security vulnerabilities resulting from not performing vital security updates.
  4. Protect computers. There are many antivirus programs that can help prevent or constrain the effects on ransomware.

While technology helps make our lives easier, those advantages can also be exploited. It is important to stay technologically literate so we only need to read about the big hacks, and not experience them ourselves.