Ransomware – Precaution is better than Paying Cash

According to a 2017 Annual Threat Report by SonicWall, ransomware attacks have exploded in 2016. SonicWall’s Global Response Intelligence Grid saw more than 628 million ransomware attempts last year, up from the 3.8 million attempts recorded in 2015, and 3.2 million recorded in 2014. A 19% increase year-over-year is alarming, but a 165 fold increase over the course of a single year is a call for action.

As a business owner in today’s world, you are not safe from ransomware attacks. Learn how you can prevent a cyber-attack on the IT infrastructure of your business and keep data protected. Remember precaution is always better than giving ransom money to cybercriminals.

Last week’s global ransomware attack #wannacry successfully immobilized over 200,000 computers across 40 countries, including 70,000 machines and medical equipment across NHS hospitals in England and Scotland. The attack also caused large corporations to halt operations, such as the UK’s Nissan Manufacturing Plant- one of the busiest in the country, and FedEx, which later ordered all North American facilities to take any non-essential Windows devices off their networks.

The attack was thwarted late Friday afternoon by a 22-year-old in the UK, who exploited a flaw in the malware by registering a $10 domain name. It seems the malware was calling out to a specific unowned domain to carry out the attacks. Now at the start of a new work week, security experts are expecting #wannacry to make a comeback- this time it will be missing its kill switch.

Below you will find a quick summary of the different types of ransomware and how you should protect your business from future risk.

Ransomware can affect your devices in different ways, usually broken down into two sub-types, encrypting and non-encrypting.

Encrypting Ransomware

Encrypts your documents, pictures, videos and every other type of file format you have on your computer. You will need to pay a cybercriminal for a key to decrypt the system. Examples of encrypting ransomware include CryptoLocker and CryptoWall.

Non-Encrypting Ransomware

Locks your screen and prohibits you from accessing the system. You will only be able to access your computer when you pay the ransom money. WinLock is an example of non-encrypting ransomware. There are also a few non-encrypting ransomware trojans that display fake messages from law enforcement agencies to extract money from victims.

A Less Common Ransomware

Another type of ransomware is MBR (Master Boot Record) Ransomware. It strikes the MBR section of the computer’s hard drive and restricts it from booting the operating system.

Is your Business At Risk? Yes, it is.

Last week’s #wannacry attack is a great example of why no one is safe from ransomware. If your business has a computer and access to the internet, your business is at risk.

Cybercriminals attack businesses for many reasons such as:

  • Unlike individuals, business owners are assumed to have the resources to pay large amounts of money in short time periods.
  • Many business owners do not report cyber-attacks because they believe that it will damage their reputation and negatively impact their customer base.
  • Cybercriminals know business owners will look for the quickest solution if their business operations are disrupted. In most cases, this means paying the ransom.
  •  New business policies such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or Remote Access File-Sharing provide flexibility to employees. But, they also offer an easy platform for cybercriminals to attack your business.
  • Business owners often ignore the security of IT infrastructure which makes the computers prone to vulnerabilities.
  • Usually, small business owners manage the IT infrastructure on their own without the help of experienced IT professionals. This leaves businesses defenceless against multiple data issues including ransomware.

How does a Ransomware affect a Computer?

  • The most common method involves using spam emails with malicious links.
  • Vulnerable software and installation of pirated/outdated software.
  • If you visit an untrusted website or a legitimate website with malicious code, it can spread ransomware.
  • If your PC is on a ransomware-affected network, it can give cybercriminals access to your data.

Precautions against Ransomware

Precaution is the best solution in a fight against ransomware! Cybercriminals take advantage of unpatched software, outdated apps, and pirated operating systems to access your system. It is best to take preventative measures against ransomware so you do not have to leave your business’ uptime in the hands of cybercriminals. Here are a few tips to help keep you safe:

  • Keep the operating system updated. Avoid using pirated versions of operating systems. Update your apps regularly. Remember that patches save you from a large number of cyber-attacks.
  • Install a robust anti-virus program and make sure that your employees update it regularly.
  • Backup your data to an external hard-drive or any other backup appliance. Cloud-based ransomware attacks have made it necessary to use a physical layer as part of your back-up strategy. Also, do not forget to back up your websites and website databases.
  • Do not login to untrusted websites and train employees to avoid trusting unknown websites.
  • Provide limited access to certain users. If a user’s PC is infected by ransomware, cybercriminals will only be able to access areas the user is allowed to. This can help mitigate risks to other devices in a different security layer.
  • Set up strong SPAM filters to block attachments such as .exe, .zip, .rar, .scr, etc. to restrict access to SPAM messages with ransomware trojans.
  • Disable macros on your entire network. Use of macros for malware attack is a very common phenomenon. You can use the new blocking feature in Office 2016 and disable it via a Group Policy or on an individual basis.

Cybercriminals are inventing new ways of attacking your business every day. It can be taxing to try and keep up with the latest security updates and best practices. That’s why many business leaders choose to hire managed IT professionals to oversee and protect their IT infrastructure. Choose a reputable company to manage your IT environments that can ensure accountability and has a proactive service model. This way, decision-makers can focus their efforts towards new business goals and drive future growth!

If you have any further question about ransomware or need technical support, Ravensdale IT is only a call away. Call  067 822 1105 and learn more about how Ravensdale IT can protect your business from ransomware attacks and many other forms of cyber-attacks.

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