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What is Ransomware?

The boss of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed in a recent news article that the number of ransomware attacks on British institutions has doubled in the past year, but what exactly is ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious computer virus that threatens to destroy your files or your reputation unless you pay the criminals a fee.  The reason, according to Mr Fleming, for the increase in their use, by criminals, is that ransoms are “largely uncontested” and highly profitable.

Some examples of ransomware encrypt or scramble your photos, videos and documents and they can only be decrypted if you pay a ransom.   Other versions will claim you’ve been caught watching pornography or downloading illegal images and threaten to email all your contacts and expose you unless you pay the ransom.  Most ransomware will impose a deadline for payment and if this is not met then the ransom could go up.  The only way to get your files back is to either resort to a previous back up that was taken or end up paying the ransom, however dealing with criminals means that there is no guarantee you will get your data back after payment has been made.

The best way to protect yourself is to undertake the following:

  • Don’t ever open attachments or links in emails that are unfamiliar to you
  • Try to keep your computer software updated including anti-virus
  • Try to keep copies of all your important files on an external drive so you have a back up should the worst happen
  • Consider purchasing Cyber Insurance

Cyber Insurance is now readily available within the market and does provide cover for cyber attacks including ransomware attacks, however it is no substitute for having robust IT procedures in place and should be used to compliment this should the worst happen.

Watch our (short) Cyber Insurance YouTube video or contact one of the team on 01302 341 344 / 0114 243 9914.

By Peter Ryder ACIIChartered Insurance Broker and Account Executive


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