Richard Ogbechie | Yips Africa
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The biggest ransomware threats

The biggest ransomware threats 1

Imagine opening your laptop one morning and discovering all your documents and photos are encrypted — but not by you. A message on the screen in broken English demands a ransom to unlock your files. It's a horrifying scenario that is far too real for many people.

In the past few years, ransomware attacks have increased with the growth in the use of digital storage over physical record keeping for critical documents and treasured photos. Take a look at the history of ransomware, how it impacted users in the past year, and what you can expect in the future.

The basics

Ransomware is a type of malware designed to hijack computers so hackers can force victims to pay a ransom to regain access. It can infect your computer when you download an innocent-looking email attachment or visit a website that surreptitiously executes malicious code that ultimately encrypts critical files or denies access to the computer. The two main forms of this malware are currently widespread:

  • Blocker ransomware locks users out of basic computer functions. For example, it might deny access to your desktop by partially disabling files the computer uses to boot. You could still use your computer to pay the ransom, but otherwise it would be useless. The good news? Locker malware typically avoids encrypting critical files in favor of simply locking you out, meaning there's less chance of total data destruction.
  • Crypto ransomware encrypts your critical data — documents, photos, and videos — while leaving more basic computer functions untouched. Crypto creators often include a countdown in their ransom demand. If you don't pay by the deadline, all your files are deleted. Many users ignore or don't understand the importance of backing up files to an external storage device, so they often choose to pay the ransom because they can’t see any other way of getting their files back.

The first modern ransomware emerged in 2005 in the form of Gpcode, but it’s only in the last few years that the problem has reached epidemic proportions. In 2016, 60 percent of the security professionals surveyed by Ponemon Institute said they saw an increase in ransomware infections, and the companies they work for averaged 26 ransomware attempts each week [1]. A Google study found that over the last two years, ransom malware attackers received $25 million in ransoms [2].

In 2017, several new ransomware infections spread across the world.

  • WannaCry began infecting computers in May and quickly spread worldwide. It even appeared on government networks in the UK and Russia. The malware demanded $300 in bitcoins from its victims. To make matters worse, users reported they did not receive their data, even after paying the ransom [3].
  • Petya first attacked computers in 2016, and cybercriminals continue to use it in orchestrated attacks that deny victims access to their computers. The malware encrypts the part of the hard drive that manages file location and prevents the computer from booting up, making the computer and its files inaccessible [4].
  • Bad Rabbit gains access to computers when users download what they think is an installer for Adobe Flash. Once it activates, it tries to spread to other devices on the network, guessing passwords to gain access. Bad Rabbit encrypts both user files and the computer’s boot files. It demands about $280 in bitcoins to be paid on a website accessible through the Tor browser [5].

Victims often wonder if they're better off paying the ransom to ensure data is returned. In the past, law enforcement agencies have supported this: at the 2015 Cyber Security Summit, Assistant Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta of the FBI advised companies infected with malware to pay ransoms. According to Kaspersky Lab, however, that's a bad idea. First, there's no guarantee cybercriminals will keep their word and decrypt your data. Second, the more money they earn, the more likely they are to try again. Finally, both security firms and law enforcement organizations are working hard to find and post valid decryption keys. It's definitely important to check the web for possible solutions before shelling out cash.

The future of digital extortion

This year certainly won't be the last for ransomware, so what does the future hold for digital extortion? Smart home devices and internet-connected vehicles are tempting new targets. A ransomware attack could lock people out of homes with smart locks, turn the heat up with smart thermostats, and threaten to crash a connected car. Ransomware could also target network-connected pacemakers, implants, and health monitors. The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a host of possibilities and is short on security standards.

Ransom malware is here to stay. Its targets may change, but the method is tried and true. If you're infected, try not to panic. Look for help online, don't pay up, and consider the use of real-time security protection to help detect and quarantine ransom threats before they lock you out.

The biggest ransomware threats 2
Great Off-Page SEO Techniques

There are many people who are just starting to blog and many more that have run their own site for a while, that don’t know what SEO is and how to implement it!

SEO simply stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is where you construct your web pages and implement certain techniques to help you rank as high as possible on search engine result pages (SERPs). The higher your pages can rank on Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc. results pages, the more traffic your site is likely to get.

Now, SEO can be split up into two separate categories; On-Page SEO & Off-Page SEO.

On-Page SEO refers to all the things that you can do ON your website to help you rank higher, such as page titles, internal linking, meta tags & descriptions, etc.

Off-Page SEO refers to all the things that you can do directly OFF your website to help you rank higher, such as social networking, article submission, forum & blog marketing, etc.

In today’s post we will be looking specifically at Off-Page SEO and some of the most effective ways to increase your page rankings on search engines.

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Off-Page Search Engine Optimisation

1. Social Networking Sites
Social Networking is bigger than ever these days! Sometimes known as “Online Reputation Management”, getting involved with social media sites is the fundamental step with which you begin to advertise, market and build your online reputation within your niche.

You need to sign up to the most popular social networking sites, such as; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc., and create yourself a profile of your own. This allows you to extend your online network of contacts, to connect and interact with your friends, to share things with each other, and most importantly promote your website/blog and help build your online reputation.

2. Blogging
Blogging is one of the best ways to promote your website online! By writing a blog for your website, you give a reason for visitors to keep returning to your site and keep up to date with your latest posts. It also helps search engines to crawl your site more frequently, as they have to update your latest blog post entries, which ultimately helps you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

You need to produce and include lots of unique content for your blog, such as; Infographics, Top Lists, How To…Tutorials, Viral Videos, etc. Try to remember to be clear and concise in what you are trying to convey to your readers within your blog posts, don’t waffle.To help you promote your blog, submit it to niche blog directories and blog search engines. (See below)

If you’re not very good at writing content for your blog, then you could always hire a guest blogger for your blog and ask him/her to write precise and unique content so that your blog can gain more credit from a search engine point of view.

3. Blog Marketing
Post comments on other blogs within the same niche as yours, which allow you to add a link in the comments section. These links can then be crawled by search engines, helping to point them towards your site. These blogs are commonly referred to as “Do-Follow” Blogs (Just like ours, where you can comment below!).

4. Forum Marketing
Find forums online that are related to your sites niche and get involved within that community. Reply to threads, answer peoples questions, offer advice, etc. This all helps to build up your reputation as someone who is an expert within that niche. Try to use “Do-Follow” Forums so that you can include a link to your site within your signature, which helps search engines crawl your site.

5. Search Engine Submission
Search engines will eventually find your site online, but that can take a while. To speed everything up, you should submit your website to the most popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

6. Directory Submission
Many people may say that directory submission is dead! I believe that it isn’t as you are increasing the likely hood of people seeing your website. It is purely based on how effectively we are selecting those directories and how efficiently we are choosing the category for submission. You could submit to general directories, but for maximum effect, you are better off submitting to niche directories. Of course, I agree that it gives quite delayed results, but it is worth doing it.

7. Social Bookmarking
Social Bookmarking is another great way of promoting your website. Submit your latest blog posts and pages to the most popular bookmarking sites, like StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc. Search engines really like these types of sites because the content on these sites is updated very frequently.

You should be very careful while doing this and you must properly handle the tags which are very essential to broadcast your news on a wide area network. This may increase your website traffic based on how effectively you have participated.

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8. Link Baiting
Link baiting is another popular way of promoting your site. If you produce a really popular unique post for your site, then other people may want to link to it. Perhaps you have copied/published another website’s content on your site, don’t forget to place their website link as a reference. Do it for others and, if your content is trustworthy, let others do it for you. This is another way to increase your link popularity.

9. Photo Sharing
If you have used any of your own photos or images on your site, then you can share then on many of the major photo sharing websites like Flickr, Picasa, Photo Bucket, etc. Other people will be able to see them and comment on them, hopefully following a link to your site.

10. Video Marketing
Just like photo sharing, if you have any videos that you have used on your site, then you can submit them to sites like; YouTube, Vimeo, etc. allowing people to find your content in other ways.

11. Business Reviews
Write reviews about others businesses or ask your friends/clients to write a review of your business in major business review sites like RateitAll, Shvoong, Kaboodle, Stylefeeder, etc.

12. Local Listings
Depending on your site’s niche, you might find that listing in local directories may be useful. You may have a website promoting your local business, therefore instead of going global and facing huge competition, listing your website locally, so that search engines can easily view your website and fetch the content, will be much better. This will help you to reach a targeted audience. Submit your website to sites like; Google Local, Maps, Yahoo Local, Yellow Pages, etc.

13. Article Submission
If you write your articles yourself, then you can submit them to popular article directory sites like; Ezine, Go Articles, Now Public, etc. This can help drive traffic to your site, whilst you can also gain some links to your site from other people (though it’s usually a slower process).

14. Social Shopping Network
If you run an e-commerce website, then a good strategy for advertising and branding your products for free is to submit then to online shopping networks. By submitting your products to sites like; Google Product Search, Yahoo Online Shopping, MSN Online Shopping, and other major social shopping network sites like Kaboodle, Style Feeder, etc. then you increase the likelihood of people finding the products that you are selling.

15. Answer Questions
You can actively participate in answering questions on sites like Yahoo Answers. By answering and asking relevant questions on your site niche, you help to build up your reputation as someone that is an expert in your chosen field. You can place a link to your website in the source section if necessary so that people can easily find your site. If you don’t spam, this is another great way to increase your link popularity.

I hope you found this post useful. Please feel free to leave your questions and comments below!