Ransomware was the biggest digital threat of 2016.

The FBI estimates that victims paid out nearly $1 billion in ransom last year alone.

These attacks have become a favorite of scammers, partially because of the ease of anonymity. Not only is it a faceless attack but the ransom is usually paid with bitcoin, which makes this a nearly untraceable crime.

Cybercriminals promise to decrypt your files once the ransom has been paid, but there’s no guarantee that they will actually do this. Some ransomware attacks discovered last year actually deleted the victims’ data the moment their gadget was infected, never intending to decrypt it when payment was made.

What’s happening now is, a new attack making the rounds has taken over as the ransomware king. It’s called Cerber and accounted for 90 percent of Windows ransomware attacks during the first quarter of 2017. The formerly popular Locky is almost non-existent at this point, accounting for only 2 percent of attacks.

One reason Cerber is so rampant is the fact that it’s ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS). RaaS is a user-friendly type of ransomware that can be deployed by anyone, even if they have very little technical ability. How it works is, an experienced hacker writes the ransomware code and sells it to others on the Dark Web for deployment.

How to handle a Cerber attack

Since Cerber is distributed through a phishing email, you need to know how to spot one.

Also, you need to be very cautious with links found in unsolicited emails, it could be a phishing attack. It’s always better to type a website’s address directly into a browser than clicking on a link. Before you ever click on a link, hover over it with your mouse to see where it is going to take you. If the destination isn’t what the link claims, do not click on it.

It is best to not be infected with ransomware. To help prevent a ransomware attack, the FBI has these suggestions:

  • Back up data regularly – this could be the best way to recover your critical data if you are infected.
  • Make sure your backups are secure – do not connect your backups to computers or networks that they are backing up.
  • Never open risky links in emails – don’t open attachments from unsolicited emails.
    Download only trusted software – make sure the software you download comes from trusted sites.
  • Have strong security software – This will help prevent the installation of ransomware on your gadget.