Bristol airport cyber attack puts Ransomware front and centre once again

Earlier this month Bristol airport made the headlines after its flight display screens were taken offline by a ransomware attack.

Ransomware is probably the most well-known form of malware thanks to high profile incidents such as the Wannacry and NotPetya attacks that caused severe disruption in 2017.

The latest incident made headlines on September 17th with airport spokesman, James Gore telling the BBC that it had been hit by a ‘speculative’ ransomware attack’. The airport’s administrative systems were subjected to an on-line criminal attempt that resulted in a number of processes including the application that provided data for flight information screens were taken offline as a precaution. As a result, the problem was contained. According to Gore the airport did not pay any ransom. 

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What is Ransomware?

Simply put Ransomware is a type of malware that attempts to extort money from its victims. It does this by taking control of a device, encrypting the data and holding the device hostage and, preventing users from accessing it.

According to a recently released Internet organised crime threat assessment (IOCTA) report from Europol, ransomware is expected to remain the dominant malware threat for years to come.

How is it spread?

Often, Ransomware is spread the same way as other forms of malware. Typically, the victim will have clicked on a malicious link in an email or on a website. Once Ransomware has established itself on a machine it will try to force the user into paying a ransom in order to regain access to the machines systems or data. Ransomware is a big money maker for criminals but thanks to the recent decline in the value of cryptocurrency Bitcoin and increased awareness of the threat the value and ease of such attacks have changed.

According to the Cybersecurity Breaches Survey 2018, the number of UK businesses reporting viruses, spyware and other forms of malware dropped slightly when compared with 2017. This might suggest that businesses are either improving their cybersecurity or that malware is losing some of its appeal amongst cybercriminals.

Ransomware meanwhile was recorded separately and the data shows that 15% of UK businesses were affected by it in some form over the preceding 12 months.

Reduce the risks

There are a few ways to reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware and malware.

  • Backup your data – Paying a ransom often doesn’t result in your data being released and can make you a prime target for future attacks due to criminals now considering you a soft target who is willing to pay. Instead you should make regular backups on a separate drive or in the cloud of all of your most important data.
  • Use a decent antivirus – Antivirus still plays an important part in cybersecurity. Ensure you keep yours updated so that it can catch the most recent malware types. Regularly scan your systems to ensure they remain clean of malware and other nasties.
  •  Keep your software updated – Using automated security testing tools such as the award winning CyberScore™ will empower you to take full control of your cybersecurity. Regular scans will ensure that you are always up to date with the latest security patches.
  • Be aware – When surfing the internet or going through your emails always be wary of links and suspicious looking websites. If in doubt avoid clicking.

New malware is created all the time and Europol has warned that as more and more people do business and make purchases via their smartphones we could soon see an increase in the rise of mobile malware.

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