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What is extortionware?
February 10th, 2017

What is extortionware?

Hailee Franco

Cyberattacks are nothing new but there’s a new threat in town that can threaten your personal information. Everyone meet extortionware.

Cyberattacks are nothing new. They have been around since the beginning of the Internet, affecting millions of people each year. In fact, you most likely were the victim of one or will be at some point. There are many known cyber threats we work to protect ourselves against.

Well, now there’s a new threat in town that can threaten your personal information. Everyone meet extortionware.

So what is extortionware and how can you help protect yourself from this new threat? Find out below.

What is Extortionware?

Extortionware is a cyber threat that occurs when a person threatens to release your personal or sensitive information. Once they take the information they make some type of demand, usually monetary. If that demand is not met they then release whatever information they have to the public via the Internet.

This is like ransomware but with one key difference. Someone who commits a ransomware attack takes information, like files from a database, and then deletes the originals. They hold that information captive until the business meets their demands. If the business doesn’t pony up, the information gets deleted permanently.

Ransomware = takes information

Extortionware = releases information

See the difference?

What do these attacks look like?

These attacks take many forms, but more likely than not they will look something like the Sony email hack of 2014. While this was an email phishing attack and not extortionware, the end result looks the same.

If the attack had been extortionware, the hackers would have contacted Sony and shared what information they recovered during the hack. They would then have requested a ransom from Sony to pay to keep the information private. If they didn’t pay, the information would get released. Just like Sony’s emails did, which compromised the integrity of high-level executives and celebrities.

The fallout from these types of attacks are extensive, meaning businesses need to protect themselves before they occur.

Protect yourself from extortionware

As they say, the best offense is a good defense. To protect yourself from an extortionware hack you need to prepare. How can you do this?

Use encryption

Unencrypted files are much easier to hack as they travel over the Internet in plain text. If a hacker finds them, they can easily read the information without needing to take any further measures. Businesses who want to keep personal information private should use encryption to add an extra layer of protection to all their important data.

Keep systems patched

When a business finds a security vulnerability they should patch it right away. If they don’t this vulnerability can be exploited by hackers, giving them easier access to your private information. Businesses should make sure their IT teams are constantly checking for system updates. They should also run regular security checks and try hacking their own system to search for vulnerabilities. This will help them stay one step ahead of the hackers.

Extortionware may seem scary to many and it is true that this type of attack can be catastrophic for a business. However, taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity can help prevent this type of attack from occurring to you or your business. So tell me, are you prepared?


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