Latest posts by Alvin Bryan (see all)
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Australia has been struggling with tens of thousands of computers being held for ransom. This is the second big attack on Australian users this year. This new attack comes less than five months after the last huge malware attack. has targeted a variety of computers, from corporate to government to personal. The attacks are so severe that the government has issued a warning to the public to beware of malware infections.
Ransomware Strikes Again
Now and then we hear news of ransomware attacks. It actually happens quite often, but is not widely publicized. Most victims, especially big targets, will keep it under wraps to avoid negative press. This attack on Australian computers has affected thousands of systems and has thus warranted more attention. The Australian attack is a typical ransomware scheme. Attackers have locked tens of thousands of people out of their computer systems. Now the attackers are demanding payment before they will allow access to files stored on the devices.
The attackers used two versions of the same ransomware called CryptoWall and Cryptolocker. The computers were infected with one of these two versions. Then the attackers were able to hold the devices hostage. This ransomware works by infecting computer files to put them under the control of the attackers. The Australian government reported that the Cryptowall ransomware has already infected over 20,000 computers. In the news release, all users in the country were warned to take extra precautions. The types of malware favored today by cybercriminals can be very insidious. It is moreover cunningly crafted to avoid detection. Users must secure their computers with proper antimalware defenses, antivirus software and VPNs to avoid being targeted and infected.
Pay or Suffer
The idea behind ransomware is holding a site hostage. Hackers lock out users by encrypting their files then ask for a ransom payment to return control to the user. Many times, the hackers pretend to be tech support agents and send warning messages to the users. The warnings are worded so that users will be grateful to these so-called agents for noticing that they have a problem. The pretend agents will then quote a fee for fixing the problem, which they of course created in the first place. Other cybercriminals will simply lock users out and demand a ransom. In this case, users were asked to pay as much as 700 Australian dollars for the decryption code. To make payments untraceable, some attackers demanded that the payment be made in Bitcoin, the anonymous cryptocurrency. If people don’t pay, they are continually denied access to their files, their computers are destroyed, or their company secrets and personal data is exposed or even sold to the competition.
People need to secure their computers with good antivirus software and VPNs, and also be very careful what sites they visit on the Internet. Companies and the government have to look into better antimalware systems. The malware that infected the Australian computers is suspected to come from malicious websites. The computer users were directed to these sites via links that were sent to their email addresses or posted on other websites. The Australia attack is said to have been done via emails supposedly from either the mobile provider Telstra or the postal service Australia Post.
By using a VPN, users will be able to secure their email addresses from being scraped from traffic. By using antivirus software, they can detect potentially malicious files trying to make their way into their systems. And finally, being careful about strange links and websites will prevent them from being led to malware download points.