Imagine you can’t take bookings, email your clients or access your computer. Ransomware is a damaging type of malicious software – malware – that allows cybercriminals to steal or lock up data until their victims pay a ransom, often through untraceable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

The online aggressors behind these attacks often work in highly organised criminal syndicates and may also threaten to publically release stolen data unless the ransom is paid. 

Anyone can be the victim of a ransomware attack. It isn’t just a threat to big business – the companies who make the news. Small and medium enterprises are big targets too, and the impacts are just as debilitating. 

But it’s doesn’t have to be bad news. There are simple steps Australian individuals and businesses can take to avoid becoming the latest victim of a ransomware attack.

How serious is the problem?

Right now, cyber criminals are producing ransomware, making high-end hacking tools more available. This means criminals no longer need to be tech savvy.

More sophisticated cybercrime tools in the hands of more cybercriminals means more potential Australian victims, and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has observed an increase in the number of ransomware incidents affecting Australian organisations and individuals.

In 2020, up to 31 October, ACSC recorded 362 reports of ransomware cybercrimes, an increase of more than 50% compared to the same period for 2019.

This also reflects trends globally. 

How to defend yourself against ransomware

Preparation is the key, and it takes just a few moments. The ACSC has released a prevention guide, Ransomware Attacks Prevention and Protection Guide, with simple and practical advice to follow on how you can improve your cyber security practices.

This advice includes keeping software up to date and having current backups stored offline as the best way to protect you and your organisation from a ransomware attack.

If you are the unfortunate victim of a ransomware attack, the ACSC has launched a new guide, Ransomware Attacks Emergency Response Guide, which offers simple steps to follow.

All sectors and individuals with information of value are potential targets for cybercriminals seeking lucrative opportunities for financial gain.

And while surveys show businesses may be willing to pay large ransoms to regain access to encrypted data, paying the ransom is always a bad idea.

There are no guarantees cybercriminals will give you back your data, or won’t strike again. No one should put their faith in a cybercriminal.

We urge all Australians to ‘act now, stay secure’ by following the easy-to-follow cyber security advice on cyber.gov.au. The ACSC’s expertise can boost everyone’s cyber defences and offers simple steps to help everyone beat the ransomware scourge. 

Businesses and organisations are also encouraged to join the ACSC Partnership program to increase cyber resilience and access timely alerts and advice. 

Find out more about keeping your business safe

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Things you should know

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should, before acting on this, consider the appropriateness to your circumstances.