Scientists at the University of Florida (UF) say they have developed software that can stop the growing problem of ransomware in its tracks.
The solution – dubbed CryptoDrop – detected the malware and stopped it after it had encrypted just a handful of files, said its developers.
In tests, CryptoDrop spotted 100% of malware samples and stopped it after an average of 10 files had been encrypted, researchers said. While the software doesn’t prevent ransomware from starting, it does prevent it from completing its task, meaning that only a few files are damaged, rather than everything on a hard drive.
In May, the FBI issued a warning saying that the number of ransomware attacks had doubled in the past year and was expected to grow even more rapidly this year.
It said that it had received more than 2,400 complaints last year and estimated losses from such attacks at $24m (£18m) for individuals and businesses.
Governments, large companies, banks, hospitals and educational institutions are all among the victims of such attacks.
Responding to the news, Mark James, security specialist at ESET, said: “Any deterrent or recovery from ransomware is a fantastic idea. It’s one of those prolific threats that can quite literally affect anyone and everyone and anything we can do to help or even stop it gets all the support from me. But as with anything like this, it relies on uptake and of course cost, this particular method will stop ransomware after it has encrypted a few files, what happens if those “few” files are your most important?
“Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly welcome anything that will help the victim but there are lots of things we can already do to protect against ransomware. It’s always mentioned time and again but backup and disaster recovery will protect you against ransomware every time. It can be low cost, it can be easy, it’s available now and anyone can get it and use it.
“Multi layered protection is the best way to combat modern day threats, those layers will include, internet security software, firewalls, backup software, updated hardware and operating systems, knowledge and of course common-sense. All these things are available to everyone reading this right now to protect your very valuable often priceless memories or data.”
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