How ransomware attacks will soar with the growth of IoT

This blog post was written by Nick Viney.

Last month I wrote about the rise of ransomware, a particularly nasty type of malware that cyber criminals use to hold a computer, or computer files, for ransom, demanding payment to get them back.

What I didn’t mention was how ransomware attacks, which are becoming more common each year, could further soar with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). I’m sure you’ve heard the term a million times already, but simply put, IoT refers to the connection of everyday devices, such as smart fridges or smart cars, to the internet. Current figures put the number of connected devices worldwide at 50 billion.

Whilst IoT is an exciting movement in the world of technology and connectivity, there are of course security concerns that come with it. Internet-connected cars, drones and other items could in theory be hacked by cyber criminals and remotely disabled, with costly consequences.

Internet of Things tree

As ransomware attacks rise in popularity, with cyber criminals attracted to the potentially huge payouts, IoT is likely to be the next big target. Not content with individual consumers, hackers are already increasingly targeting big businesses and organisations that have little choice but to pay ransoms in order to regain access to critical business and customer data.

This was made evident earlier this year when multiple hospitals in the US were targeted by cyber criminals. Most recently, Kansas Heart Hospital in Witchita was hit by two ransomware attacks; the first time, the hospital’s president paid the ransom, but because the hackers didn’t decrypt all of the files, the attackers asked for a second ransom. This time the hospital refused. The hospital’s president did not reveal which malware hit the hospital, or how much money was paid to the attackers.

There are steps we can take to protect ourselves, however, in the world of IoT. I’ve listed three tips below.

  1. Update the software on your smart devices

Always remember to run updates on your internet-connected devices, such as smart TVs, to ensure that the security is as up-to-date as it can be. Remember, anything you connect to the internet should be protected with the latest security software!

  1. Do as much research as you can before purchasing a new smart device

Be sure to do your homework and research the company’s security policy and the ease with which the product can be updated. If you have any doubts, contact the manufacturer of the smart device for additional information.

  1. Protect your mobile device

Smart devices are often controlled and managed through our mobile phones and tablets, so ensuring these are protected is vital. McAfee LiveSafe™ service provides comprehensive mobile security that offers real-time protection against mobile viruses, spam, and more. Find out more about it here.

Don’t forget to also follow me on Twitter for all the latest cyber-security news and trends! @nick_viney

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