Banner of code and a padlock with the text Ransomeware Protection overlaid

Protecting against Ransomware: iOS and ChromeOS lead the way

Much has been written about Ransomware – a malicious process that encrypts files on local hard-drives as well as remote shares/folders that are accessible by the infected machines. Sadly, this is something we’ve seen more of in recent years and months. Once encrypted, the only way to decrypt these files is, usually, to cough up Bitcoins (‘professional’ Ransomware can command around 50 Bitcoins, approx. $21k at the date of publishing, for a decryption key where Enterprises have been targeted).

The vast majority of targeted machines are based upon Microsoft Windows. Hardly surprising given the popularity of the OS, widespread deployment and some might say, inherent vulnerability to attack. Of course, Ransomware has also been identified on OSX, unprotected Android and various distros of unprotected Linux.

Characteristically absent from identified Ransomware vulnerabilities are iOS mobile devices and ChromeOS. These ‘walled garden’ devices, comprising secure hardware, software, and software distribution systems, have created levels of defence that typical Ransomware coders have found difficult to penetrate. It’s a question of effort vs reward and, quite frankly, the effort vs reward ratio targeting Windows devices is just too attractive compared to the alternatives.

Testament to the security-focused nature of Google Chromebook devices (incorporating both hardware & software defences), Google recently doubled (to $100k) their bounty to anyone exploiting the device. The previous $50k bounties have never been claimed….

Typical Ransomware variants are shown below and their associated requirement for Command & Control for encryption and associated methods of Payment Messaging resolution. You’ll note one particular Ransomware variant, rather worryingly, not require any C&C! A great write-up on this variant is available at Cisco Talos.

Encryption

More information on Chromebook security info can be found at https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/3438631?hl=en

Overall, any company should seriously consider the use of Chrome devices particularly when security is of utmost priority. The other attributes of ease of use, fast-boot, battery life, and easy admin only make the devices more compelling, while you can feel safe in the knowledge that you are as secure as you can be.

It may be controversial to say but a combination of iOS smartphone/tablet and Chromebook laptop or Chromebox desktop would appear to be the sensible person’s choice when security is the primary consideration.