As organizations sent employees home abruptly in the early months of 2020, the world changed forever. The United States completely shut down for two weeks, and in some cities, it was even longer. 

Even as essential workers headed back into their place of work, a large portion of the U.S. workforce continued to work from home. Even now, some organizations have announced that they have no intention of ever sending their employees back to work. It is very obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work and multi-cloud business strategies. 

This abnormal spike in remote work left many organizations vulnerable and unprepared for a tidal wave of cyberattacks. In the past two years, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in ransomware attacks known as crypto viruses.

What is a Computer Virus?

To understand what a crypto virus is, we must first understand what an ordinary computer virus is. Much like the common cold, a hacker designs a crypto virus to spread from device to device. Similarly, they exponentially growing with each infection.

Norton defines a virus as a type of maliciously written code that attaches itself to a program, document, or email attachment. When a user runs the program by clicking on it, it allows the virus to install itself or execute its programming onto your device. Computer viruses can remain dormant for a while, but when activated can affect all the other devices or computers on your network. 

Computer viruses can do many things including password theft, ransacking organizational data, logging keystrokes, corrupting files, sending spam emails, and even abducting the devices altogether.

What is a Crypto Virus?

Crypto viruses are a variation of computer viruses (or malicious code) that contain a public key. You can think this similar to the key to a door, except it can lock encrypted files or messages. Public keys are published for the world to see, often used in complex asymmetric algorithms. Oftentimes, a private key that is generated when the public key was made decrypts the files.

In a scenario involving crypto viruses, a private key is only known by the attacker… and your computer files cannot be unlocked without it. 

See the issue? Many times the cyberattacker will hold your data “hostage” until you pay them by a certain deadline. It was estimated by BizTech Magazine that the average ransom paid out for ransomware attacks was $154,108 in Q3 of 2020.

How Can a Computer Get Infected with a Crypto Virus?

As mentioned above, computer viruses can hide themselves among documents, files, attachments, etc. Just by clicking on an email attachment or file, you or your employee can install a program containing a data encrypting key on all the devices using your organization’s network. This can essentially lock up all computers and shut down your business until an attacker decides to unlock your devices.

What Can You Do When Your Computer is Infected with a Crypto Virus?

Unfortunately there are only a few options if you become the victim of a crypto virus attack. You can simply pay the ransom, try to remove the malware, or wipe your entire system and start from scratch. 

We would never advise any organization to pay a ransom for their data. Although it might be a quick fix to your current dilemma, paying cyberattackers will normally encourage more attacks.

In our years of experience, we have found it rare to reverse a ransomware attack and successfully remove the malware. Normally, these attacks force organizations to wipe the computer completely. 

In some cases, organizations that don’t follow a backup strategy lose all of their data.

What are the Best Ways to Defend Against Crypto Viruses?

The best way to defend against crypto virus catastrophes is by taking better steps to prevent them. It is very important to update your organization’s antivirus software and malware protection consistently. Another great strategy is to educate your workforce on what these attacks are and what they look like. Employees need to learn how to identify a suspicious attachment or link and avoid clicking on it.

An often-overlooked measure is employing a cloud backup solution. Early in the article, we mentioned that oftentimes organization wipe their computers clean and start from scratch. If an organization is following proper procedures like the ones recommended by Ameritech Data Solutions, they can simply wipe the computer and restore a version of the hard drive before the device was infected.

If you would like to learn more about solutions to defend against crypto virus attacks, please contact us to review our recommendations and your various options.