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Information Technology

Special Alert: Ransomware on the Rise!

July 27, 2016

There is a new threat looming and it goes by the name ransomware.  Ransomware is a serious threat to our organization’s data and attacks have increased 300% since 2015.  Between March-August of 2014, nearly 625,000 systems were infected with the ransomware variant Cryptowall, encrypting more than 5.25 billion ­files, earning criminals millions of dollars.  That’s just a 5 month period and only one type of infection.  (source: Ransomware Hostage Manual, Adam Alessandrini). 


What is it?

Ransomware is a malicious piece of software that infects PCs and Macs alike through phishing emails, unpatched programs, compromised websites, online advertising, and free software downloads.  Cyber criminal have designed it to take control of your system and then encrypt all your files, holding your system hostage until a ransom is paid.  This effectively prevents you from opening any files on your computer.   Making things worse, after the initial infection the ransomware attempts to spread to shared storage drives and other accessible systems, like network drives.  If the demands are not met, the encrypted data remains unavailable or data may be even be deleted altogether.   Nobody wants to experience this.  Think of losing everything you have, even on that connected hard drive you use for backups or your department’s shared folders.


Symptoms of an infection:

  • You cannot open your files and the files have an abnormal extension (ie: .locky instead of .doc or .xls).
  • You are threatened with a message with instructions on how to pay to unlock files, usually with a countdown to indicate you have limited time.


How to protect your and the College’s data:

  • Use anti-virus/malware software
  • Keep all your software patched, including third party plug-ins used for websites
  • Enable your system’s firewall
  • Do not download free or un-signed (untrusted) software
  • Do not open attachments or visit links in emails unless you explicitly requested them; visit the website yourself
  • Do not respond to phishing emails, which pretend to be legitimate sources and will either send you to another website to gather your information or infect your system
  • Backup your data often so you can recover your files


More information and what to do:


For more information:

Jess Odom, Information Security Officer:
503-768-7226 |