Meet with Fabian Wosar, one of the world’s top ransomware hunter

Fabian Wosar is the world’s most renowned ransomware hunter, who is an expert at breaking the encryption coding that cybercriminals use to hack a computer system.

Ransomware is a type of malware, or malicious software specifically designed to “hijack” by denying access to data or a computer system until a ransom amount is paid.

Ransomware usually spreads through phishing emails or by visiting malicious sites or opening links of such content unknowingly.

Fabian Wosar creates ransomware-busting tools for different companies and organizations, which do keep these cybercriminals away. But the downside of this heroism has cost Wosar his freedom. He has been a target of serious death threats by these cyber-crime organizations, which had him flee from his hometown in Germany to a secure place in the UK two years ago. He has been living in complete seclusion, with two cats, and almost daily receives secretly coded death threats.

Recently, Business Insider got in talks with him and found him very cheerful and optimistic, despite his given circumstances.

Wosar works for a company called Emsisoft, and during the recent coronavirus pandemic, when hospitals were overwhelmed and their data and computer systems were completely at risk, Wosar provided them with tools that could bust these ransomware attempts.

Wosar has been known in the world for destroying ransomware. Oxford University, BBC, and other giant organizations have credited him and appreciated his efforts many times.

The decryption tools that Wosar built and gave away freely have been downloaded more than 1.7 million times. These tools help individuals and business organizations to recover their crucial information and data and prevent them from paying more than $1 billion in ransom for the hacked systems.

Ransomware is fairly down in 2020, and due credit goes to the efforts from Wosar and his employer company Emisoft. But the hospitals were a huge target during the coronavirus pandemic, and if Wosar and his company had not taken prompt safety measures, these hospitals would have paralyzed.

In 2019, ransomware attempts caused the US alone to pay at least $7.5 billion in multiple scenarios, and that is a huge amount.

Bad actors penetrate the defenses of giant companies, or high profile individual accounts through malicious codes often hidden in innocuous-looking emails.

However, once someone becomes a victim of ransomware, it is advised to pay the ransom amount. Because if other means of data recovery are employed, they cost a lot more than the ransom money itself!

Many people believe that paying ransoms is equivalent to encouraging these crimes and profiting criminals. But once an organization is under attack, it is extremely difficult to find a solution. For instance, when a hospital is attacked, the attackers can cause any harm to the patients as well. Some hacking groups have started releasing sensitive information and confidential documents of patients to pressurize the victim to pay a ransom.

So, the solution is not as simple, and the prompt decision is not very easy for the victims to reach.

The company that Wosar works for, Emisoft, has hired several dozen cybersecurity professionals which are scattered all over the globe. These professionals are extremely careful to stay under the hoods usually. They don’t even hold meetings in one place, because that can make them vulnerable as cyber-criminals are after their lives.

However, when Wosar started receiving code encrypted death threats, instead of getting scared, he found them fascinating!

Most of the threats are in the Russian language, for which Wosar needs an interpreter. When he was in Germany, he often used to find himself being stalked by East European people.

But it is not the death threats or stalking that scared him much. What worries him more is when power plants, like Sheriff’s departments, companies, hospitals, public institutions contact him for help.

Very occasionally, cybercriminals also contact him for help fixing a faulty decryption key that they want to sell to a victim. And Wosar has no other option but to help them because otherwise, the victim has already paid the ransom and if Wosar does not help the ransomware criminal, he can severely damage the victim’s data before releasing it.

So, even for Wosar, sometimes helping criminals becomes necessary, just for the sake of the victims of these criminal activities.

Fabian Wosar, the most notorious ransomware hunter in the entire world, the person who can decrypt any code and can save any data or computer system lives a life of a recluse and has one weakness.

His two pet cats!

Wosar can skip crucially important meetings and can jostle the entire world for his pet cats, Emerald and Sapphire.

Even while talking to Business Insider, he suddenly and abruptly had to stop in between because of an urgent call.

The call was not from a world’s giant organization. The call was from one of his cats who wanted to play, and, eccentrically adorable as it may sound, Wosar can leave everything just to oblige his beautiful pets!

Cats of Fabian Wosar
Photo: @fwosar / Twitter.

Featured photo: Gettyimages

Read next: The Evolution Of Cybersecurity And Data Storage (infographic)

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