5 Ways To Avoid A Ransomware Attack
Ransomware attacks have been in the news a lot lately. The latest one to hit gave the National Health Service in Britain a horrible headache. But, you don’t have to be a large institution to be affected.
The nature of a ransomware attack is that it is totally random. The virus worms its way onto any computer whether it belongs to a private citizen or every single laptop and desktop in a large, mega-corporation.
The virus is transmitted through attachments and links appended to email messages. The email seems to come from someone known to the recipient. The recipient clicks on the attachments, and the virus is released. At that point, the screen goes dark and a timer appears with a message. What’s worse is that access to all data on your computer is completely locked.
The message and timer inform you how much to pay to unlock your data and how much time you have to pay before your data is lost forever.
If you’re like the rest of us, you rely heavily on your computer not only for your business, but for your personal items as well. We store everything from sensitive information to family photos on our devices.What would you do if all of that important stuff was held hostage?
Authorities all over the world advise us not to pay the ransom. Giving the people behind the attack what they want only serves to encourage them. The thieves tell you that once you’ve paid the ransom, you will be provided with a decryption key which will release your data. The reality is that those decryption keys do not always work. The thief has you and your money now. You’ve proven yourself to be amenable to handing over money. So, why would they let you go so easily? In fact, in most cases the victim has paid the ransom and still cannot gain access to his or her files.
So, if we shouldn’t pay the ransom, and we must rely on computers for so much of our daily work and play, then how do businesses protect themselves from becoming cyber victims?
Like so many situations in life, forethought really counts. Here’s what you can do to minimize your risk.
Educate. Run regular training sessions with all your employees. Focus on basic online security practices. Remind them not to click on links or open attachments that they’re not expecting to receive … even if the email seems to be coming from someone they know. When sending links and attachments, include a personal message that will prove to the recipient that the email’s source is legitimate. It can be something as simple as, “Hi Jane, here’s the Smith file I mentioned earlier.”
Update. As amazing as computer software is at simplifying and automating our daily workflow, it isn’t perfect. Tech companies constantly work at improving functionality and security features, and subsequently send those improvements out as updates. Always download the updates.
Back Up. Purchase an external hard-drive. They’re fairly inexpensive and come in a variety of storage sizes. At the end of the work day, plug it into your computer. Ask it to back up. Then unplug it. If it remains plugged in day and night, and your computer is attacked, there’s a good chance that you’ll lose the backed up data, too. So, keep the external hard drive handy. How often you use it – every day or once per week – depends on how often you write new data onto your files.
Protect. Invest in antivirus software. Although there’s no guarantee that the software will stop 100% of attacks, your chances of remaining attack free will be very high.
Move to the cloud. Small- to medium-sized businesses don’t necessarily have the budget to hire an in-house IT team that will keep company software up-to-date and safe from attack. Subscribing to a service that gives you online access to any software your company uses allows your business to save money and focus more time on what you’re good at. Cloud computing services are dedicated to ensuring they’re providing a secure disaster recovery plan and safeguards for avoiding problems in the first place. Moving your business to the cloud provides better protection and security than handling it all yourself.
Ransomware attacks (and other kinds of cyber attacks) are only going to become more common. They’re proving to be big business and very lucrative for those involved. Take the time to train, update, back up, and protect your business data right now. The cost of dealing with an attack after it happens can be huge in terms of lost earnings and productivity. So, try to avoid that path entirely.
Tell us: What do you need to know about protecting yourself from cyber attacks?