Ransomware, Stolen Data, End Users – 2014’s Biggest PC Security Threats

By January 29, 2015No Comments

It’s no secret that 2014 was a tough year for the PC security world. Newer, stronger viruses/malware/dreadful phishing attempts were put on the market, crypto-currency (while not inherently evil) made it easier for cyber-criminals to demand money anonymously – emboldening their resolve – and many businesses were stuck ponying up hard-earned cash after being infected with ransomware like CryptoLocker. In the end, PC security companies were working overtime creating better antivirus software/definitions, better backup solutions, and better instant recovery software like RollBack Rx (the PC time machine) to muscle up for the battle ahead.

Without further ado, here is a list of some of the biggest PC security threats of 2014.


Some thought ransomware would fall when the US Department of Justice raided the ZeuS botnet which housed CryptoLocker file servers and a decryption key was leaked to the public and published at Those people would quickly take back their words when, at the same time this raid happened, stronger variants began to infect PC’s across the globe. CryptoWall, TorrentLocker, etc. The name changed, but the idea stayed the same – get this vicious code onto machines, encrypt their files, demand payment, sit back and profit. And profit they did. In the past two years more than $50-million has been made through the use of ransomware, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Dolla dolla bills y'all.

Dolla dolla bills y’all.

It’s becoming commonplace now to read stories about some ransomware variant infecting PC’s, with people wondering what to do next, and the answer is always the same. “Don’t pay. Replace with backups.” Or, “Is the information worth more than the ransom? Then pay up if you don’t have any backups.” Either way, they’re stuck. Why? Because they don’t know that there is already something on the market that can help mitigate the damage.

With RollBack Rx, removing ransomware is as easy as rolling back to the last available snapshot. These snapshots exist on the sector-level of the harddrive and are further encrypted, protecting it from all Windows-level viruses and malware. By loading into the subconsole and loading an older snapshot all traces of the malware will be gone, and you can get on with your day.

This is more important now than ever as ransomwares continue to get more and more prevalent in the cyber-criminal industry.

Phishing Gets More Sophisticated

Thanks to Windows 7 and 8/8.1 the file type (i.e. “exe” or “pdf”) at the end of a download link no longer needs to be visible. This small change was significant for hackers doing drive-by/phishing attempts on businesses, as the end user who was previously told by their IT admin to not download any “.exe” file extension no longer saw that keyword, and therefore any email sent their way with the words, “Invoice.pdf” could be clicked on and run right before they knew what they were doing.

In 2014, these drive-by attacks containing a hijacked email address could send false URL links or virus-ridden executables to an email and there was a good chance the end user would click on it.

Last year 18 per cent of end users said they were comfortable clicking on an external URL that came in through an email, according to the Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report. In the same breath, 8 per cent will click on an attachment sent in, and 8 per cent will fill-out a web form.

These phishing attempts have only grown in use in the past year, given the success rate and the ease of bypassing any AV/firewall in place.

Data Theft Steps Up To Historic Levels

While technically the biggest historic data theft in history began in Dec. 2013, it’s worth noting that in the months following it was found that 70 million people had their personal information stolen out of Target, the retail giant. Of that 70 million, 40 million were confirmed to have had their credit card information stolen by the hackers as well.

How did they do it? The criminals simply stole some employee information from a company that did maintenance duty at Target stores, which allowed them to gain access to their POS (Point of Sale) machines. That’s all they needed.

Target had invested $1.6 million in PC security upgrades before the attack – which apparently worked – but the company did not react as they should have and the information was stolen.

These are just a few examples of the kind of attacks that happen every single day across the globe. PC security is more important now than ever before as the world digitizes, so does sensitive information. It’s about data protection. Invest wisely into PC security, and most importantly, act when you need to.

Horizon DataSys Corporation is a privately held software company headquartered in Blaine, Washington which develops, publishes, and distributes branded computer software applications specializing in end-point PC management, OS integrity, and instant restore.

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