Ransomware has emerged as the most serious malware threat of the 21st century, with criminals projected to extort billions from their victims in 2017. Acronis partner One Channel warns that with the help of a hard-drive-encrypting virus, cyber criminals force users to choose between paying an online ransom and losing their files forever.

It says the rapid growth of this form of high-tech larceny has led many business and users to leverage cloud-based storage and backup services in an effort to foil ransomware attacks.

Acronis, a global leader in hybrid cloud data protection and storage, recently completed a consumer backup survey. The results were revealing, beginning with the finding that most users are completely unaware of the threat posed by ransomware attacks, much less how to prepare for them.

This survey exposed a serious disparity between the value assigned to respondent data and what is actually being done to protect that data.

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One Channel CEO Bernard Ford says backup still remains the most effective tool against data loss. “Creating a backup before disaster strikes is much more efficient and cost effective than looking for a cure when your data is lost. Affordable backup software is readily available, so there is no excuse for losing your data or exposing it to cyber criminals and ransomware attacks.”

He points to the findings of the survey and says over 34 percent of respondents said that they, or their family members, have experienced data loss. “Over 26 percent of respondents acknowledged they don’t perform any type of data backup. Those who perform regular backups said that security, ease of use and storage capacity are the most important features in a backup solution.”

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In the report, over 62 percent of respondents said they have never heard of ransomware. While more than 67 percent placed great importance on their personal information, documents, pictures, videos and music, only 5.8 percent realised that it can cost more than $500 (about R7000) to recover their data after a ransomware attack.

Security threats affect everyone, not only businesses, but also consumers. Many people think of it as a problem for business, but the fact is that most of the malware is affecting anyone with an email account and a computer.

“Always have a backup of your important data and choose backup software with local storage, cloud storage and active protection against ransomware. More importantly, keep your operating system and software up to date. It will block cyber criminals from entering your system through any known security holes,” says Ford.

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“Be mindful of suspicious email, links, and attachments. The most effective infiltration method used by ransomware criminals is getting users to open infected email attachments and to click on links to malicious websites,” he explains.

Malware attacks and defences against them are continually evolving. Once the use of backups was proven to be a reliable defence against ransomware, malware gangs began developing ransomware variants that find and attack backup files, too.

To answer this new threat, Acronis enhanced its backup solutions with innovative new anti-ransomware technology. Introduced in January 2017, Acronis Active Protection actively defends both user files and their backups by identifying and blocking ransomware attacks in real-time.

NewsGhana.com.gh