Protecting Your Digital Identity Part 4: Malware, Ransomware, and Doxware oh my!

Endpoints like phones and tablets are becoming the primary way many interface with the internet, applications, and each other. You may have heard of viruses and malware affecting windows computers, but few understand if the same danger exists with mobile devices and platforms.

What is Malware?
Malware is primary malicious software. The goals of malware vary, but fundamentally it tries to infect computers and mobile devices. Different then a virus, malware isn’t seeking to destroy or corrupt, but to extract personal information, steal data, and prevent authorized access to systems.

What is Ransomware?
Ransomware rides the torrent of Malware to deploy its malicious payload. Ransomware targets user data and encrypts it. The malware then requires you to pay a fee often in bitcoin to the creator of the Ransomware. To add salt to the wound, even if you give them the money they wont always give you the key to decrypt you files. Not fair criminals. Not fair. What might sound easy enough to combat has become a huge issue for information security professionals. The sheer number of variants, encryption algorithms, and tactics have the security industry reeling. The only real defense against Ransomware outside of recognizing malicious attachments is the traditional anti-malware software. You can also back up your data regularly with daily backups and weekly backups. Why a weekly you might ask? In case you accidentally backup over a good daily backup with encrypted data, you only lose at most a week.

What is Doxware?
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Doxware hacked its way onto the scene. Ransomware creators realized that many had gotten wise to the “backup my stuff, never fear” scenarios. So they decided to add another layer to the attack. Doxware will publicly release your data if the ransom is not paid. Think of the damage this could do to some with sensitive data, photos they don’t want others to see, or conversations they have had that could jeopardize themselves or others. Some would pay anything to keep specific information private, and Doxware is counting on that.
The Risk to Mobile Devices
The mobile market is crowded, but three clear leaders stand out. Each operating system takes a slightly different approach to data, applications, and security.

IOS (Apple)
IOS is pretty much the pinnacle of security. The main reason is that all applications go through extreme vetting before they are available on the store. There is one caveat to this however; jailbroken IOS devices. Should you choose to jailbreak your device, you are as vulnerable if not more vulnerable to compromise. Don’t do it.

Android (Google)
Android falls prey to the ability to side load applications and Google app store applications aren’t vetted like they are on IOS. For these reasons, the operating system can fall prey to Malware, Ransomware, and Doxware. More secure variants of Android exist, but the mainstream versions don’t focus as much where it counts.

Windows (Microsoft)
Vulnerable since November 20th, 1985. The best chance Windows had at a security play was Windows RT, which I, and a handful of others were huge fans of. The problem was Google and Apple were established and app developers didn’t have adequate compensation to make apps for Windows. Windows 10 IS trying. With a great deal of time and effort, you CAN secure a Windows 10 device against most threats.

Summary
With endpoints like phones and tablets becoming the primary way we interface with the world, malware is a concern. As we have discussed, some systems are more resilient then others and have a security first methodology when it comes to installing applications. Make sure when you download an application from your chosen app store or website (in the case of windows) you make sure that the package is verified. Pay specific attention to the rating, how many downloads, and provider recommendations. Ultimately, make sure you are doing backups. If you are concerned with Doxware, try encrypting your own files with readily available software. This will make the data useless to anyone that it isn’t intended for in the first place. Thanks in advance for reading.
The Word on Security

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