Ransomware is a type of malicious software that’s designed to encrypt your data and then hold it for ransom until you pay the hackers to get the decryption key. There are several reasons to be concerned.
1. You’re data is encrypted and you’re not getting it back unless you pay the ransom or you reload your data from a recent backup. (big concern there!) Depending on the type of backups you do and the number of infections you have in your organization, it could conceivably take anywhere from a few hours to upwards to a month to get fully restored.
2. If you pay the ransom (which can range from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars), there is no guarantee you’re going to get the decryption key. Think about it. Paying the ransom is basically saying that you trust the people that hacked your computers in the first place. That’s just crazy, yeah?
What can you do to make your computers and local network more secure against hackers and malicious software?
While ransomware is not new, a new wave is sweeping over computer networks around the globe. The most recent breakout infected over 300,000 systems in 150 countries across all industries. However, there is a way you can dramatically reduce your chances of getting a ransomware infection.
It starts with updates. Keeping your operating system (OS) updated is the first line of defense against any kind of malicious software attack. It goes without saying (so I’ll say it), at this point you should not be using Windows XP or earlier OS. They are not being supported anymore.
So using the latest OS and keeping that OS fully updated is the first, and easiest, way to minimize your risk of infection. Apple and Linux get viruses, too. So even if you’re not using Windows, keep your system updated. That will go along way in protecting you.
Along with keeping your system updated, backups are important. People generally don’t think about backups. But, if the data on your system is vitally important, say, payroll, inventory, time sheets, AR, or any mission critical data, you should be doing nightly backups of that data.
If you become infected with a virus, or more specifically with ransomware, then you can recover your data by restoring the backups. Problem solved! No ransom payment! The boss thinks you’re a genius and everything is right with the world! Assuming your backups are good backups, you will be able to completely recover from a ransomware attack using them.
You should also have anti-virus software installed and running. These days, ransomeware and other malicious software attacks usually start with clicking on an email attachment. Just clicking the infected attachment will install the malicious code. A good anti-virus will scan your emails when they appear in your inbox and alert you to possible infections.
The anti-virus program for your organization should be a business-class, i.e., an enterprise-level, version as opposed to the free stand-alone versions you can download from the Internet.
An enterprise-level anti-virus program can be a little pricey. It depends on the vendor, which anti-virus you choose, and how many computers you want to put it on. There is nothing wrong with the free versions on your home computer mainly because… well… they’re FREE! But, free shouldn’t a consideration for your business, in this case.
So, to recap…
1. Keep your operating system updated.
2. Have an anti-virus running and keep it updated.
3. Save early and save often. Make backups!
4. Don’t open email attachments.