Ransomware Explained – Your Data Or Your Business

This cyber-attack scheme hasn’t garnered nearly as much attention as the usual “break-in-and-steal-data-to-sell-on-the-Internet” type, but it can be even more debilitating. If you are not familiar with what a ransomware attack is, and how it can harm your data and business, keep reading!

Ransomware attacks have begun appearing in the last few years and its practitioners are so polished that in a few cases they even have mini-call centers to handle your payments and questions.

So what is ransomware?

The business model is as old as the earliest kidnapping. Ransomware stops you from using your PC, files or programs. The attackers hold your data, software, or entire PC hostage until you pay them a ransom to get it back. Obviously, seeing that you are dealing with criminals, there is no guarantee you will actually ever get your data back just because you meet their demands.

The M.O. is pretty simple. You suddenly have no access to a program or file and then a screen appears announcing your files are encrypted and that you need to pay (usually in bitcoins) to regain access. There may even be a Doomsday-style clock counting down the time you have to pay or lose everything. Microsoft reports that some versions accuse you of having broken a law, and that you are being fined by a Federal agency, police force or other official enforcement office. Some versions even use the FBI logo to intimidate or trick users.

Interestingly, one of the more common “market segments” being targeted in the US has been public safety. Police department data is held hostage, and in many cases, they have given up and paid the ransom. They had little choice and aren’t the only ones either. Within a week, a hospital in California also fell prey, as did one in Texas.

Protecting Yourself

Ransomware can be especially insidious because backups may not offer complete protection against these criminals. Such new schemes illustrate why you need to be aware of the latest criminal activities in the cyber world, and make sure your data protection efforts are up to date.

Here are 4 steps you can take right now to protect yourself from ransomware:

  1. Make sure you continue to keep your antivirus software up to date
  2. Train your employees to be aware. People remain the biggest source of security breaches. Employees unwittingly open malicious emails or go to corrupted sites and explore their employers’ network and infrastructure to malicious software
  3. Backups are probably the most important method to restore your systems if you suffer a ransomware attack. Make sure that your backups are detached when the backup is not occurring. Otherwise, you risk that even backup files will be corrupted.
  4. Keep all of your software programs updated. Software developers frequently patch vulnerabilities with new updates to help resolve security issues.

These simple tips work like the locks we put on our front doors. Just as you wouldn’t leave your home unlocked and invite a robbery, you shouldn’t leave your data vulnerable to an attach by miscreants.

If you need help understanding the potential risks to your business and data, or additional methods on how to protect yourself further, please reach out to our Cyber Security Experts who can provide guidance and recommendations for any network infrastructure.