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Blackmail software attacks eight percent of Danes

19-01-2015 News UK

Eight percent of Danes have been exposed to harmful software that blocks access to their data and programs. A new report from the Agency of Digitisation and the Danish Computer Security Incident Response Team (DKCERT) shows this.

The Borgernes informationssikkerhed 2014 report on information security for the public is the first report to put a figure on the number of Danes exposed to this new type of threat, also known as 'ransomware'. In recent years, threats of this kind have been increasing internationally.

'Ransomware' is a contraction of 'ransom' and 'software'. The ransomware term is used because the malware blocks people’s computers, and they are required to pay a ransom to the creators of the malware in order to regain access to their programs and data.

However, only a minority of users pay the ransom. Only 2% of those who have experienced this threat on their computer chose to pay the ransom. In addition, the report shows that three in five of those who were subject to ransomware regained their data without paying the ransom, and only 18% never got their data back.

These are some of the results in the Borgernes informationssikkerhed 2014 report. The report builds on a survey carried out by Statistics Denmark in autumn 2014 among a representative cross section of the Danish adult population. "It is very positive that so many of the victims often manage to get their data back without giving in to blackmail. Unfortunately, this will become more difficult in the future, because the people behind this malware have started to use encryption," said Shehzad Ahmad, Head of DKCERT.

Encryption means that the people behind the malware encrypt the victim's data with a secret key. Only if you have this key, you can decrypt your data and regain access to it. Ransomware with encryption is an increasing problem internationally.

How to avoid ransomware
Individuals can protect themselves against ransomware by installing security software. "However, the most effective instrument against ransomware is common sense," said Shehzad Ahmad.

"Often the victims are tricked into installing the ransomware. Therefore, be careful if a website requires you to install special software in order to watch a video, for example. Only install software from the producer's own website," he said.

Very few people make a back-up copy
In addition to ransomware, the Borgernes informationssikkerhed 2014 report includes many other aspects of Danes' relationship with ICT security. For instance, the report shows that only 27% of Danes make a back-up copy of data on their smartphone or tablet. This figure is 39% for PCs.

So, more than half of the population are unable to restore data if their devices are stolen, lost or subject to ransomware. The best way to ensure access to your data and programs is through regular back-up.

However, Danes are better at protecting their devices against harmful programs. A total of 88% keep their programs updated, and 84% use different types of security software.

"It is a very positive sign that so many Danes know how to protect their programs and data against harmful software, however there is still room for improvement. As many as 16 % of Danes do not protect their data, and this can have serious consequences. Individuals can find more information about information security at www.borger.dk. In 2015, we will be launching an information campaign with guidelines and advice on information security," said Cecile Christensen, Head of Division at Agency of Digitisation.