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FBI Article: Ransomware on the Rise

We noticed that a lot of you really liked the last FBI cyber security article we ran. We’re pleased the Bureau has encouraged us to share their articles on this topic, so we’re happy to do so again. This article deals with a concerning type of cybercrime called ransomware, where a malware restricts access to the infected computer/network and demands that the operators pay some sort of ransom to regain control of their network. We hope this article is helpful to you. Please let us know if you have information or ideas on this topic that our readers may want to hear.

You can find this article, as well as many other articles you may find valuable to keep your business and staff secure against cybercrime, at this web address:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/january/ransomware-on-the-rise/ransomware-on-the-rise↗

For more information about fraud protection tools and product features provided by The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, please visit our website.

Ransomware on the Rise
FBI and Partners Working to Combat This Cyber Threat

Your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message—supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency—saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine. Or you get a pop-up message telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.50.23 AMThese scenarios are examples of ransomware scams, which involve a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users’ access to their files or threatens the permanent destruction of their information unless a ransom—anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars—is paid.

Ransomware doesn’t just impact home computers.
Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations can and have become infected with it as well, resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, a disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and/or potential harm to an organization’s reputation.

Ransomware has been around for several years, but there’s been a definite uptick lately in its use by cyber criminals. And the FBI, along with public and private sector partners, is targeting these offenders and their scams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.47.22 AMWhen ransomware first hit the scene, computers predominately became infected with it when users opened e-mail attachments that contained the malware.
But more recently, we’re seeing an increasing number of incidents involving so-called “drive-by” ransomware, where users can infect their computers simply by clicking on a compromised website, often lured there by a deceptive e-mail or pop-up window.

Another new trend involves the ransom payment method. While some of the earlier ransomware scams involved having victims pay “ransom” with pre-paid cards, victims are now increasingly asked to pay with Bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency network that attracts criminals because of the anonymity the system offers.

Also a growing problem is ransomware that locks down mobile phones and demands payments to unlock them.

The FBI and our federal, international, and private sector partners have taken proactive steps to neutralize some of the more significant ransomware scams through law enforcement actions against major botnets↗ that facilitated the distribution and operation of ransomware.

For example:

  • Reveton ransomware, delivered by malware known as Citadel, falsely warned victims that their computers had been identified by the FBI or Department of Justice as being associated with child pornography websites or other illegal online activity. In June 2013, Microsoft, the FBI, and our financial partners disrupted a massive criminal botnet built on the Citadel malware, putting the brakes on Reveton’s distribution. FBI statement↗ and additional details.↗
  • Cryptolocker was a highly sophisticated ransomware that used cryptographic key pairs to encrypt the computer files of its victims and demanded ransom for the encryption key. In June 2014, the FBI announced—in conjunction with the Gameover Zeus botnet disruption—that U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials had seized Cryptolocker command and control servers. The investigation into the criminals behind Cryptolocker continues, but the malware is unable to encrypt any additional computers. Additional details.↗

If you think you’ve been a victim of Cryptolocker, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) CryptoLocker webpage↗ for remediation information.

The FBI—along with its federal, international, and private sector partners—will continue to combat ransomware and other cyber threats. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a ransomware scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please report it to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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↗ Linking to Non-Biltmore Bank Websites

This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Biltmore Bank. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Biltmore Bank. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Biltmore Bank assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.

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Nine Tips for Better Cyber Security

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Our Increasing dependence on information technology and networks has brought tremendous efficiency to our work and personal lives, but with these efficiencies come risks; particularly risks from cybercrime. According to an October 2014 independent study conducted by Ponemon Institute, the percentage of businesses impacted by malware and other kinds of cyber fraud is up 144 percent, and a survey by Experian↗ found that 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyber attack are out of business within one year due to the costs of customer notification, lawsuits, etc. Small and medium-sized businesses can be especially vulnerable since they often do not have the same level of resources as larger companies to defend their information technology systems and track their financial transactions on a frequent or daily basis. While protecting your business against cyber criminals may require a combination of special resources and a change in workplace procedures, here are a few basic steps that you can take at work and at home to reduce your risk of being hacked, spoofed, falling victim to computer viruses and Trojan horses or having your identity stolen.

  1. Keep your computer secure. Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware and make sure you keep these up to date to protect against new threats. Use the latest versions of Internet browsers, such as Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, and make sure your operating system and applications are updated regularly.
  2. Use a separate, dedicated computer for online banking – this decreases your chance of infection with malware because you are unlikely to encounter these programs on trusted banking sites. Do not use this computer for general web browsing and email.
  3. Never share usernames and passwords –use strong passwords with a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols, and change your passwords if you suspect they could have been compromised. Use different passwords for the main applications you use. For example, your online banking password should be different than your email password.
  4. Use email safely. Don’t click on links within your email – instead, open your browser and search for the company that supposedly sent the link. Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files from unfamiliar sources. These files can contain viruses or other software that can jeopardize your computer’s security.
  5. Don’t give out personal information over the phone or via email unless you have initiated the contact. Even if the email looks like it’s coming from someone you know, the person’s email may have been hacked.
  6. Never use unprotected Internet connections – In addition to using only secure connections, make sure websites asking for sensitive information are secure. These websites will show up in your browser with a lock icon in its toolbar that, when clicked, should display an info sheet, including the company’s name. Also, the URL should start with “https” instead of “http.”
  7. Educate your employees, family, housemates or anyone else who has access to your computer network and/or your financial information about cyber security best practices. You should also discuss monitoring account information and billing statements regularly for unauthorized charges and withdrawals.
  8. Do not keep your passwords on your computer in a Word document. While this practice is convenient for cutting and pasting and may protect against key logging software that can grab your keystrokes, this technique leaves the user vulnerable to clipboard loggers that capture the contents of the clipboard. Documents on your computer, even when password protected, are also vulnerable to skilled hackers. A better idea is to use a password manager program – some of which are free. PCMag.com offers an overview of these programs here.↗
  9. Ask your bank what they are doing to assist you in cyber fraud prevention. At The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, our online banking platform offers tools, such as Trusteer Rapport,↗ which works alongside your current security software to add protection and decrease your susceptibility to criminal behavior, protecting you and your business from threats your antivirus cannot. We also offer features like Security and Transaction Alerts that can help clients protect themselves from fraud. Businesses using online banking also have access to security features such as dual control and user limits, along with Treasury Management products like ACH Fraud Protection, Positive Pay, and out-of-band authentication and secure access codes to protect ACH and wire transactions. And, we continually invest in back office resources to help detect potentially fraudulent transactions.

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↗ Linking to Non-Biltmore Bank Websites

This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Biltmore Bank. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Biltmore Bank. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Biltmore Bank assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.