Realstatistics, the latest ransomware making the rounds on the Web, has been about for only a few weeks but has already infected thousands of machines.
Ransomware is not a new type of malware (malicious software) but it is the fastest growing one. This is hardly surprising considering that the motivation of the majority of criminal hackers is financial and ransomware is a very efficient way to get money.
The way it works is simple: the ransomware takes your devices and your data hostage and locks them, denying you access. To open the padlock and recover your digital goods you must pay a ransom. This is usually in the form of untraceable money such as Bitcoins.
Ransomware has been a problem mainly for Microsoft operated PC but it has recently been seen on Mac, Android smartphones and tablets.
Realstatistics ransomware seems to be attacking website running Wordpress and Joomla! content management systems or CMS. An analysis of the version number of the affected CMS shows that up to date versions are also compromised, indicating that the hackers are not going for a core vulnerability. It must then be that the creators of Realstatistics are probably using the vulnerabilities in plugins to hack the websites.
But there are other ways the criminal hacker can take your system hostage. Recently, a council employee inadvertently opened an email attachment containing a virus that resulted in the computer system being locked and payment being demanded to restore access. On this occasion, the council took the decision to shut down the system, return to pen and paper for a few days whilst they restored the system from back-ups.
This illustrates yet again the importance of having off-site back-ups of your systems and how careful one must be when opening an email attachment.