All You Need to Know About Ransomware

This past year has seen some of the worst cyberattacks in history. From the WannaCryransomware attack in May to the Petya attack in June, thousands of people have lost thousands of dollars and valuable data to criminals using ransomware.

Ransomware has been tagged as an “epidemic” by major security companies. Like a virus that keeps evolving, new strains of ransomware are constantly emerging, many of them using new and original techniques that haven’t been tried before.

You probably already know the intended goal of ransomware is to kidnap a victim’s data and demand payment for safe return. Educating yourself about the workings of ransomware will help you remain alert, aware, and keep your money and data safe.

Here’s all you need to know about ransomware:

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a subset of malware. However, instead of trying to steal user credentials and interrupt key processes like most forms of malware, it tries isolating a victim’s data and then demanding payment for the data’s release.

Ransomware is often embedded inside harmless-looking software and applications. It activates as soon as the user launches the program. Devices can also be infected through email links or malicious websites. Victims may not know they’re under attack until they find that their files are locked and a ransom demand is asking for money for the return of those files.

How does a ransomware attack work?

There are two primary types of ransomware: locker and crypto.

Locker ransomware locks victims from using important device functions like accessing a desktop or browsing the internet.

Crypto is the more common form of ransomware. It encrypts files and demands a ransom payment for their return.

In a crypto ransomware attack, a user’s device is infected with a malicious code which will select certain files and encrypt them using a unique algorithm. Victims will then receive a warning screen accusing them of breaking the law or simply informing them that they’re under attack. The cybercrooks will demand a ransom payment, usually in bitcoins. Then, a countdown timer begins, forecasting the files’ deletion if no payment is made.

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that allows you to pay for goods or services easily, remotely and anonymously. You can send bitcoins digitally using a mobile app or a computer.

This currency is stored in a digital wallet, which resides in the cloud or on your computer. It’s almost like a checking account, only it’s not insured by the FDIC nor is it subject to any regulations. Also, bitcoins aren’t tied to any country and have no credit card fees.

Each bitcoin transaction is available on a public log. However, only wallet IDs are revealed – the names of buyers and sellers are anonymous. This assured anonymity is the reason bitcoin payments have become the payment method of choice for cybercriminals.

To make a bitcoin payment, victims are usually instructed to download anonymous browsers for visiting a URL hosted on anonymous servers.

To pay or not to pay?

Should the victim of an attack pay the ransom for their files’ return? That is the million-dollar question!

While many are quick to give a blanket “no,” other experts say it may be worthwhile to pay the ransom.

Joseph Bonavolonta, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cyber and Counterintelligence Program, claims that the FBI often advises people to pay the ransom.

He explains that when more people pay the ransom, it keeps the ransoms low. He also believes that most scammers will keep their word and decrypt the victim’s files.

However, other FBI officials disagree with Mr. Bonavolonta’s remarks and urge victims not to pay ransoms. They say there is never a guarantee of the files’ return, and that agreeing to the cybercrooks’ demands encourages more attacks.

One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that victims should seek assistance from law enforcement agencies. When victims share the names of their attackers or the details of their attack, the law enforcement agents will be able to tell them whether they’ve seen this group attack before and whether the group tends to return encrypted files.

If your computer’s been infected and you decide to pay the ransom, you may be looking at a payment that falls anywhere between $200 and $10,000.

Before you pay, though, find out if there’s a decryption tool online. You may be able to find the keys to decrypt your files on your own.

If you decide not to pay the ransom, shut down your computer and disconnect from your network. Scan your computer with an anti-virus or anti-malware program and let it remove everything on your device.

Prevention

It’s always best to be proactive. Ward off strangers by strengthening your email’s spam filter. Also, don’t ever click on suspicious links or download mobile apps from unfamiliar application stores.

Make sure your operating system (OS) is protected with a strong firewall, spyware and sufficient, updated anti-virus software.

It’s equally important to back up your files on an external hard drive or on a USB every few weeks.

Despite your best efforts, you may be the victim of a ransomware attack. If the unthinkable happens, keep your cool, contact a law enforcement agency to get info about your attacker, and check for a decryption tool online. If you do decide to pay, make sure to take preventive measures against future attacks.

Your Turn: Have you been the victim of a ransomware attack? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://links.ismgcorp.com/dc/zw7oNi_TweRxxDXp2CfOI676ee7YeNA5vLpZhs7Qp1nFj4hUFQbjnMysWYK-R50E8_CM-mB1LJAZBwY9hTVltvqCj0VhFFbDvHChOElx17O-x_DgGFHYFeL0osgs-vdGLy4MbBnkVtaKUNAxkZWT3dZ-_QU4yWgF7U0GEFM29DI=/x0Z0040D0nI0pkX0xd3U2Ic  

 https://www.columnit.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-ransomware.html

Yes The Dow Jones Reached 22,000. What Does That Mean?

It seems like everyone is talking about the stock market hitting an all-time high of 22,000.bull bear What does that mean, in real-world terms? Is that a good thing?

The stock market can be confusing and seem overwhelming. If you’re not completely clear about the stock market, stock exchange, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, etc. – you’re not alone.Let’s start with a brief explanation of what the stock market is.

1.) What is the stock market?

The stock market is where stocks and bonds are bought and sold. When you purchase stock, you become a shareholder, which means you now own a “share” of the company (much like you are an owner of shares at your credit union). If the company’s profits go up, the value of your shares goes up. If the company’s profits go down, so does the value of your shares. When a company needs to raise money, it issues shares. The price of the share is based on how much the company is estimated to be worth, and how many shares are being issued. The company gets to keep all of the money raised in the initial sale of shares. Traders and investors continue to buy and sell the stock of the company on the stock exchange, although the company itself no longer receives any money from this type of trading.

2.) Why do stocks continue to be traded once they’re purchased?

Traders and investors continue to trade their purchased stocks because the perceived value of the company changes over time. The investors may make or lose money depending on whether or not their predictions on the value of the stock are correct or not. Trying to predict which stocks will rise or fall in value, and when, can be tricky. The ultimate goal of buying stock is to make money by purchasing stocks in companies you expect will do well and increase in value.

3.) What are the stock exchanges?

Stock exchanges are the markets where stock buyers connect with stock sellers. The two most common stock exchanges in the United States are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ. The NYSE is primarily auction-based, which means the trading facilitators are physically present on the trading floor. The NASDAQ is an electronic exchange where buyers and sellers are connected over a telecommunications network. Companies listed on either of these exchanges must meet various minimum requirements and baseline rules. But these are by no means the only legitimate exchanges. Electronic communication networks (ECNs) connect buyers and sellers directly, cutting out the trade facilitator. There are also Over-the-Counter exchanges (OTCs). OTC markets generally list small companies, and these companies often (but not always) have been placed on the OTC market because they were delisted from NASDAQ.

4.) What is the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

The Dow Jones (aka, Dow) is a U.S. stock market index composed of 30 large public companies such as Disney, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Pfizer. It is calculated by adding up the 30 companies’ stock prices and then dividing them by a magic number called the Dow Divisor. The divisor is adjusted to account for stock splits, dividends or spin-offs, which affect the share prices of Dow components.

On Aug. 2, 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 22,000 for the first time in history. The reason for this jump could be due, in part, to several factors:

  • Low unemployment, steady GDP growth and other economic indicators point to a still-improving economic climate, encouraging optimism. This all leads to more investment and spending.
  • The Federal Reserve has increased interest rates three times since December; another reason to be optimistic about the economy.
  • Companies have been earning higher profits and expect to earn more in the future as the economy improves and business and consumer spending increase.

5.) What does the Dow reaching 22,000 mean for me?

On the surface, not much. The number 22,000 itself is a relatively meaningless milestone. It will simply become a new trading level that in no way guarantees an improving economy or a declining unemployment rate.

What is relevant, though, is the trend this number represents. The Dow has reached 30 record highs this year, leading some investors to fear that this latest milestone could be a market top, as stock prices are likely too high for the current economic environment to support. Others believe this trend will continue.

Your Turn: Are you a stockholder? If so, what are your thoughts on the Dow reaching 22,000 points?

SOURCES:
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/01/wall-street-set-to-open-higher-on-earnings-momentum.html  

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/stockmarket.asp  
http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/stock-exchange.html  
https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-a-stock-exchange-358113  
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/djia.asp  
http://www.jsonline.com/story/money/2017/08/05/dow-keeps-climbing-making-some-investors-wary/538685001/  
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/08/02/dow-has-reached-another-record-too-late-buy-stocks/532563001/  
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/business/dealbook/dow-22000-stock-markets-dollar-value.html 

Am I A Shopaholic? How To Determine If You Have A Serious Problem

Q: I love shopping. It makes me happy! I don’t go into debt to cover my habit, but I do go shopaholicover my budget. Quite often, actually. Am I addicted to shopping?

A: Your problem is not uncommon.

Though a true shopaholic is hard to quantify, it is estimated that up to 12% of Americans suffer from a shopping compulsion.

It’s important to note, however, that most people are not truly addicted to shopping. A bona fide addict, or one who would be thus diagnosed by a competent psychologist, would go to extreme measures to support their habit. They may even resort to thievery and the like.

However, compulsive shopping definitely exists and it can certainly impair one’s quality of life.

Are you a shopaholic? You may be if this checklist describes you:

  1. You have unopened and tagged items hanging in your closet
  2. You tend to shop beyond your means
  3. You often purchase items for which you have no use or need
  4. Disagreements and disappointments trigger shopping trips for you
  5. You feel a thrill when you make purchases, no matter the reason
  6. You often feel remorse after making a purchase
  7. You try to hide your purchases from family members
  8. On days that you don’t shop, you feel anxious and unsettled

Why do people become compulsive shoppers?

Like all addictions, shopping works to fill a void. Compulsive shoppers may be feeling lonesome, depressed or anxious. Shopaholics experience a rush of dopamine from shopping, which makes them feel better and has them craving that rush again.

While it’s normal to feel a thrill when you find that perfect pair of jeans or buy yourself a new phone, it isn’t normal to feel this thrill when doing your grocery shopping or buying school supplies for your kids. It also isn’t normal to feel out of sorts on days that you don’t shop.

Ironically, the act of shopping ultimately makes people feel worse. The guilt that accompanies overspending, coupled with the shame of not being able to control the habit, leaves the shopper feeling more down and anxious than they were to begin with.

To take it one step further, people tend to make big purchases following a big disappointment. Say you were turned down for a job and then go out and buy an expensive pair of shoes. Your bruised ego might be temporarily soothed. But, in the long run, the purchase will make you feel a lot worse.

“Buying and displaying products to compensate for our `psychological blows’ might sometimes backfire by reminding us of our setbacks and failures,” explains Monika Lisjak, Ph.D., and assistant professor of marketing at Erasmus University.

In other words, your brain will now associate that purchase with your rejection, and you’ll feel that hurt every time you wear those shoes.

Unfortunately, in an era of frenzied consumerism and excessive advertising of every kind, compulsive shopping can be difficult to control. If you think you might be a shopaholic, don’t despair. With a bit of planning, discipline and help from family and friends, you can kick the habit for good.

Here’s how to curb the urge to splurge:

A.) Talk it out

When you feel a shopping binge coming on because of a rejection, a dashed hope or another kind of emotional overload, call a friend. Talk through your feelings instead of smothering them in unnecessary and expensive purchases. You’ll feel a whole lot better afterward, and of course, it’ll be easier on your wallet!

B.) Cash and debit only

When you’re shopping, use cash or a debit card connected to your checking account balance. This will force you to stick to your budget and keep you from overspending. If you don’t like the idea of carrying a stack of greenbacks, you can also use a prepaid gift card. There’s no way you can overspend when the limit has already been set for you.

C.) Avoid temptation

If you know you tend to buy more than you need in certain stores, keep away from them until you have your habit under control.

D.) Identify triggers

The next time you feel the urge to shop, take note of what’s got you feeling that way. Whether it’s an argument with a loved one or a talking down from your boss, you’ll be better equipped to deal with these triggers when you learn to recognize them. If you don’t want to talk out these feelings, get creative and come up with a way to deal with them that doesn’t involve spending. You can hit the gym, listen to music, or watch reruns of your favorite TV show to help you feel better.

E.) List it

Shopping lists aren’t just for groceries. When you need to shop for anything, first create a detailed list of everything you need. This will help you buy only what you need and minimize your spending.

If you feel like you’ve got a serious problem and you’re in over your head, we can help. Call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to ask about debt management and other financial services. We’ll help you get your finances under control!

Your Turn: Based on what you’ve read in this article, do you think a little retail therapy is ever warranted? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.livescience.com/2338-truth-shopaholics.htmlhttp://www.psychguides.com/guides/shopping-addiction-symptoms-causes-and-effects/  

https://lifereimagined.aarp.org/stories/39576-Why-Retail-Therapy-Makes-Us-Feel-Bad-Not-Good  
https://www.moneytalksnews.com/7-signs-youre-shopaholic/  
http://business.time.com/2013/04/16/is-retail-therapy-for-real-5-ways-shopping-is-actually-good-for-you/