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Scottish borders college hit by ransomware

Computer users are being urged to be vigilant for ransomware after a college in the Scottish borders was affected by a virus recently. The Borders College computer system was attacked by a ransomware virus, which lead to new students having to be enrolled manually. The college’s head of student services said its ICT staff were eventually able to remove the virus before restoring files. The college said that no sensitive information on students was compromised.

A wave of attacks

The attack is just one of many that have hit colleges around the world in recent years. So, what can network administrators and domestic computer users do to combat ransomware, and just what is ransomware? Let’s take an in-depth look at why ransomware is such a concern and the steps you can take when it comes to virus removal.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is normally identified when a message appears on a screen telling users that their files have been hacked and that they must pay a ransom to resolve the situation. More and more consumers and businesses have been affected by ransomware over recent years, with one security company, Malwarebytes saying that more than half of UK businesses have been targeted with ransomware over the past year. Ransomware encrypts all data on computers and networks, locking users out and making it impossible to access files. Users are often instructed to pay a fee to access their files. Some hackers pretend to be Government authorities or even the police, telling users they have accessed illegal material and must pay to put things right and avoid action from the authorities. Malwarebytes say around 40% of global businesses have been affected by ransomware.

Handing over cash

Many companies have reluctantly handed over significant sums of money to access their data once again. Around 20% of UK companies affected by ransomware have been instructed to pay over $10,000. A small proportion have been asked for more than $50,000. With so many users being intimidated and scared into paying up, it’s no surprise to see cybercriminals becoming more confident and ambitious with the passing of time. Malwarebytes found that over 50% of business victims were giving into hackers’ demands. Hackers are more likely to ask for smaller amounts after targeting individual consumers. Los Angeles’ Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center were forced to pay out the equivalent of $17,000 in bitcoin to remove a virus after being targeted by ransomware.

Keep a clear head

Those who suspect that they have ransomware on their machines are urged to stay calm. They are also encouraged not to hand over the money. Giving into demands makes cybercriminals more likely to ask for larger amounts in future. Paying the money does not necessarily mean the attackers will no longer be able to access your machine. It’s wise to use an alternative device such as another laptop or a phone whilst you look at steps to remove the virus.

Is your anti-virus software effective?

Other ways to combat the efforts of cybercriminals using ransomware is to ensure your anti-virus products are always set to update themselves automatically. You may also wish to back up your data on a regular basis and read up on the latest threats regularly to stay one step ahead. Don’t simply keep your main device protected – make sure other devices including smartphones and tablets also have anti-virus software downloaded onto them.

Don’t encourage the hackers

If you are hit by a ransomware attack and are determined not to give the cybercriminals what they want, you may wish to take your machine to a virus removal specialist. However, many people have been able to remove viruses themselves without needing help from outside. Nonetheless, as viruses become more and more sophisticated, removing a virus without specialist knowledge can become more difficult. It could be worth paying for the best security products on the market in order to avoid falling prey to a virus. It’s vital that we don’t underestimate the damage that viruses can do, so always try to stay one step ahead keep yourself informed about what the very latest threats are in order to avoid being affected by them. By giving hackers the cash they are looking for, you could be enticing them to take things further in future.



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