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The Changing Nature of Ransomware

Lance Waterly

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Ransomware is on the rise. In 2014, ransomware was the 22nd most common form of malware. By 2016, it was the 5th. Due to the increased success of ransomware attacks, and the relative ease of distributing it, it has become a favorite of hackers and data thieves. But like all pernicious malware, ransomware is changing. Here, we’ll examine some of the ways ransomware is changing its nature.

Ransomware is Becoming More Profitable

Malware attacks are typically carried out to extract profit, mine information, embarrass the victim, or to cause chaos. A successful ransomware attack encrypts and locks user data.

This means that computers that run business operations are inaccessible and can cause daily actions to grind to a halt.

Many small and medium-sized businesses are unaware of how to remove Ransomware. Without a thorough plan in place, data restoration can be a complex if not impossible process. Because of this, many businesses choose to pay the ransom for restored access. The cost of paying a ransom has only risen. According to the 2017 Internet Security Threat Report, the average profit for ransomware attacks has risen from $294 in 2015 to $1,077 in 2017.

For many small and medium-sized businesses, a one-time payment of around $1,000 can seem like a quick, easy way to end the situation. However, according to managed service security experts, paying the ransom may not restore your access and may not be your best option. In fact, one in five businesses that paid a ransom didn’t receive restored data or access.

The newly mainstream nature of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is beginning to empower ransomware attacks. These transactions methods naturally protect identity; payments made this way are not traceable in the same ways credit card transactions are. If the potential of safe profit remains for propagators of ransomware, the frequency of attacks of this nature will only increase.

Public Shaming

Ransomware attacks will begin to use public shaming more often as an element of extortion. Attacks like the one against San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency will become more common in the foreseeable future. This attack displayed a ransom on all Muni station screens, locking out user access and denying riders from purchasing and redeeming tickets. This kind of public shaming attempts to manipulate public opinion in order to secure the demanded ransom.

Eroding consumer trust is one of the most malicious aspects of a public ransomware attack. Organizations that utilize public facing digital screens can expect to face increased attempts to compromise their systems. That includes ATMs, digital advertisements and billboards, self-checkout kiosks, and other outward facing displays that are connected to the main computer system.

If these public shaming styled ransomware attacks prove to be successful, they will only increase in the future. Public shaming demonstrates that ransomware attacks are not always carried out for profit. These attacks are also carried out to damage reputations, decrease public trust, and cause general chaos.

Ransomware As Chaos

Because ransomware attacks enable the author to lock access to data and computer systems, future ransomware attacks may be employed to cause chaos with little regard to extracting ransom payments. As more and more hackers utilize ransomware they will begin to use it for other purposes.

State-sponsored attacks may utilize this malware to disable daily functions of other states. What’s more, ransomware campaigns may focus on voting computers in an attempt to erode confidence in elections. Or worse, to hinder the voting ability of a nation.

Ransomware Evolves to Evade Detection

Ransomware viruses typically attack vulnerabilities in older operating systems and systems without security software in place. However, modern ransomware viruses are being written without an executable file. This allows the malware to bypass some security measures by appearing legitimate.

These new ransomware families can avoid detection by traditional security software. Because they take advantage of scripting language to hijack and encrypt files they may appear legitimate to older, out of date security protocols.

The changing nature of ransomware attacks means security measures must evolve as well.

Email Attacks

Most ransomware spam attacks are filtered by email providers—Google, Apple, Microsoft, and so on. However, ransomware authors are looking to write viruses that slip through large-scale spam filters.

As more ransomware spam makes it to email inboxes, employee actions become more important. Ensure your organization utilizes employee practices to avoid downloading or opening malicious emails.  

Safeguard Your Organization

If your business is hit with a ransomware attack, your options are somewhat limited. You can pay the ransom and hope you receive restored access, you can contact IT security firms in the hopes that a decryption algorithm exists, or you can count your losses, wipe your system, and start over.

Of course, the best defense against ransomware is a good offense. There are a number of steps you can follow to safeguard your organization from attacks.

Ensure you regularly update your security and operating systems, consider weekly or even daily backups on unconnected servers, institute employee education to avoid simple mistakes like opening spam email or visiting suspicious websites, and work with cyber security experts to ensure your system is secure and up to date.

Ransomware is quickly becoming one of the most malicious cyber threats facing small and medium-sized businesses. Strong prevention measures will help your organization stay ahead of ransomware attacks.

Lance Waterly is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley, CA. He spent nearly twenty years working with IT solutions companies since the earliest versions of the world wide web, and now enjoys writing about his experiences while giving advice to businesses to keep the industry moving forward. In his free time, he takes his grandkids on long walks through their neighborhood.

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Console vs. Mobile vs. PC: Three Kinds of Gaming

Steven Sanders

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Video games have come a long way since Pong, and we now have a variety of different genres to play across a range of platforms. Gamers will always debate amongst themselves about the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, but they will nearly always show some form of bias for their preferred gaming system.

Over the course of this article, we’ll be covering the three primary types of game systems in this day and age. We’ll take a look at highly portable mobile platforms, available game consoles, and powerful gaming PCs, comparing each of them so that you can see exactly how they differ from each other.

PC

PC gaming is often seen as the most cutting-edge way to play your games, and it makes sense. A gaming PC is a lot easier to keep updated than a console since you can replace the components as soon as they come out. Console gamers instead have to wait until the next iteration of their system comes out.

Of course, a PC is also much more versatile than a console, as you can custom-make one that isn’t constrained by whether or not it will be feasible on the market. Keep in mind that gaming PCs pay for their impressive performance and graphics when it comes to stability, with the quality of releases depending on their degree of optimization.

Console

Console gaming is often seen as the more convenient alternative to PC gaming, and there is significant overlap between the games that are available on both types of systems. Console games will typically run at a lower frame rate and a lower resolution than PC games due to the inherent limitations of the systems.

Since a game console has to be reasonably priced, then there is a limit to the performance they can output, and yet they provide immense value for money. You would be hard pressed to find a gaming PC complete with a keyboard, mouse, operating system, and monitor for the price of a console.

Mobile

Finally, mobile gaming takes up a huge percentage of the global gaming market, and that’s what makes it so attractive for game development services. Whenever you have a bit of downtime, you can simply take out your smartphone and start playing a game, and the massive number of ads rakes in a tidy profit.

While there are some games (like Fortnite) that are available on mobile, console, and PC, you’ll find that the majority of mobile games are not available on the other systems due to their simplicity. Mobile games usually have simple control schemes due to the difficulty of adapting them to a touchscreen.

Conclusion

There is no “best” way to play video games, so don’t let anyone discourage you based on your preferred platform. We hope that this guide has summarized the differences between each of these kinds of game systems.

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Technology

The Pros and Cons Behind DevOps as a Service

Steven Sanders

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It seems as though every component of business computing is being used as a service, including DevOps. The advantages of using devops as a service are obvious: You are able to rent computing resources instead of having to buy and manage them on your own.

However, is it possible to outsource each aspect of business operation? Can DevOps as service work for your organization? Does the cloud collaboration between operations and developments help speed up projects, or does it mean that your company will lose control of business-centric applications?

Before discovering the arguments supporting and refuting devops as a service, it’s good to define the meaning behind DevOps?

What is DevOps as a Service?

The term DevOps comes from the creation of operations and development, two different disciplines. Some traditional companies have departmental silos that make it difficult for IT professionals to work on creating business automation software.

DevOps creates an environment needed for the rapid testing and development of custom business software. Making a DevOps-based collaborative environment is easier for security specialists, IT engineers, QA engineers, and other teammates to ensure that there is synchronization, integration, and synergy between workflows.

To ensure that your DevOps environment is successful, your team will need to use agile software methodologies. The more difficult the project, the more enterprise components you’ll need to ensure that your team works properly.

DevOps as a service allows you to relocate those enterprise resources towards the cloud. Rather than using basic software development tools, DevOps as a service collects the development tools towards a platform that’s hosted in the cloud.

Advantages Behind DevOps as a Service

Here are some reasons why companies are starting to use DevOps as a service:

  • DevOps as a service hides the complexity of information and data flow, which means your DevOps team members can focus on their team specific tools without having to know the entire toolchain. For instance, a software developer can conduct tests through source code management tools, and IT operators can make changes with configuration management tools.
  • DevOps allows users to collaborate as it places tools on the cloud. This allows users anywhere to work together and complete projects.
  • Using cloud-based services is a data-driven process where everyone has the same data set. This leads to better quality control and documentation.

Disadvantages Behind DevOps as a Service

Here are the disadvantages that exist when using DevOps for your IT team:

  • Security is always a huge concern. Your security team isn’t always apart of DevOps and the DevOps teams usually choose speed over security when creating software. With DevOps cloud services, you can create unnecessary exposure and risks, especially if its the transport layer that’s left unsecured.
  • Outsourcing DevOps infrastructure will require some level of software development expertise, including having an understanding of orchestrating a workflow, infrastructure, and integration. You’ll need experts and tools of DevOps as a Service in order to be successful.

Conclusion

When you’re using DevOps as a service, you’re increasing your IT teams’ productivity. And if you’re thinking about making a new DevOps strategy, DevOps as a Service will help shorten the time to deploy apps and will give you versatility as you create new business process applications.

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Finance

3 Technologies Revolutionizing Online Business

Steven Sanders

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Modern technology has proven itself disruptive time and again which has allowed businesses to flourish and advance in industries like education, manufacturing, logistics, and finance. Disruptive innovation is also disrupting companies from Google to Microsoft. While in the past the disruptions were unexpected, it has allowed business owners and entrepreneurs to see how the innovative ideas are lucrative opportunities that improve business models significantly. Here are three transformative technologies that are revolutionizing businesses worldwide.

1. API Integration

An application program interface (API) is a software building application tool that determines how API components interact. Partnering with a skilled API Integration company will help companies identify API sets that best connect hardware and software and allow user devices, programs, and data to function and interact with one another. Companies need API integration for many reasons, including to:

  • Connect to cloud apps
  • Develop new APIs
  • Extract data from legacy systems
  • Write new apps
  • Increase productivity
  • Manage APIs in-house
  • New technology integration
  • Develop product or service ideas
  • Generate software solutions for end-users

Some of the most popular APIs utilized by companies include YouTube, Google Maps, Twitter and Amazon. As technology progresses, API integration offers limitless possibilities for companies to expand as growth and revenue do.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) in the past mostly innovative thought process, but today it is a mainstream tool used in daily business operations to improve efficiency and productivity. By 2030, experts predict that AI will contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy and 26 percent gross domestic product to local economies. As more businesses pop up online, APIs will customize customer experiences and analyze data that interprets consumer buying histories to predict future product or service trends. It will also help companies use predictive AI to target new demographics based on behaviors.

What is clear about AI is that it is set to disrupt more companies in the future because of quantum computing that will be smarter and more complex than how we are using it now. It will solve problems like global warming, poverty, space exploration, and disease all because of AI superhuman quantum computer systems that will dissect and analyze data in seconds without programmers feeding them commands. Popular AI in use today includes Siri, Alexa, Cognito, Netflix, and Amazon. The next generation of AI will include facial recognition, augmented reality, internet of things connectivity, emotional replication, drone delivery, and voice or visual search platforms.

3. Blockchain Cryptocurrencies

For the past few years, blockchain cryptocurrencies have thrown many industries into a disruptive state as it decentralized how companies buy, sell and store data. Blockchain uses transparent ledgers to connect an extensive network of users, so it has a reputation of being a tamper-proof way to make transactions, which is an indispensable tool to e-marketers. Blockchain technology like Smart Contracts will also become mainstream, which will allow businesses to use it to secure financial transactions via cryptocurrency exchanges.

Companies must prepare for the future of AI and blockchain technology by investing in the type of resources that transforms new talent and streamlines information technology departments to win in business.

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