The dangers of ransomware
Ransomware is a type of malware, or malicious software, that locks down computers or servers, and demands money to unlock them. These attacks usually happen via email attachments that contain malware. Once installed, the malware encrypts files on the computer and then displays a ransom message demanding payment.
While ransomware attacks can be very dangerous, there are several ways to prevent them from occurring or to mitigate their impact.
In order to protect yourself and your data from ransomware attacks, read on for 7 simple steps that will help you increase data protection against cybersecurity risks. We will also see how to recover from a ransomware attack if it does occur.
If you suspect a ransomware attack has hit you, contact your IT Support provider immediately. They should be able to start their mitigation and recovery protocols, as well as setup ransomware protection programs.
Stay safe out there!
How Ransomware affects Small Businesses
Ransomware attackers often target SMBs because they lack the resources to fight back. They typically have less security and fewer IT staff members than larger companies.
Small businesses can lose valuable data, including payroll records, financial statements, customer lists, and even employee files. This means that they can lose revenue and suffer reputational damage.
When a ransomware infection hits SMBs, it can cripple their operations. For example, it could prevent them from accessing their email accounts and ERP, which could lead to missed deadlines and lost clients.
In extreme cases, it could force SMBs to shut down completely.
Many SMBs close down after being hit by malicious software. Some go bankrupt because of the costs associated with recovering from the attack. Others simply give up and let their employees leave.
This makes sense because business owners don’t often take steps to protect their business from a ransomware attack. They don’t have enough IT staff members to respond quickly, and they don’t have the budget to hire additional support personnel.
So, what can SMBs do to protect themselves from ransomware? Here are steps that can help.
How to protect your data from ransomware attacks
1. Back up your data regularly to an external location
To avoid getting paralyzed by a ransomware infection, back up your data regularly to another location. This way, even if your servers get infected, you can recover your files without paying the ransom.
There are two types of backup solutions: local and remote. Local backups are stored onsite, for example, on a NAS or storage server. Local backups are fast and relatively cheap, but as they are accessible directly on your network, they might also be a target for ransomware. Nothing worse than realizing that your precious backup files have been encrypted too.
In order to address that issue, offline storage is a suitable solution. It can range from simply plugging a USB drive into your server and copy the files to the drive, to having a fully automated tapes library. What matters is that once written, the files cannot be modified easily from the network.
The major drawback is that this involves manual actions to plug and unplug the USB disk, or bring the tapes out of the IT Room.
Remote backups are getting more common: you use a specialized software to upload your critical files and databases onto cloud storage servers. They offer several benefits, including convenience and security.
However, they require some technical knowhow to set up properly. You need to make sure that the connection between your computer and the cloud service is secure (VPN), and that the data is encrypted in transit.
You also need to configure the backup software to ensure that only allowed users can access the files.
Finally, the storage (and retrieval) costs and necessary Internet capacity can become quite significant if you have a large amount of data to safeguard.
If you’re not familiar with these technologies, consider hiring a professional company to manage your backups.
When backing up your data, consider both local and remote backups. These two methods complement each other and ensure that you always have access to your files.
2. Configure access controls on your IT systems
Access control is a security measure that prevents unauthorized individuals from accessing sensitive information. By configuring access controls, you can prevent anyone, or any malicious software acting like a user, from accessing certain areas of your system without permission.
When configuring access controls, consider giving access to data on a need-to know basis. That means that only the user concerned with the data should have access.
Another thing to consider is setting time limits for data access, such as limiting access during off hours or over weekends. Also, create one account per person. Don’t allow generic accounts, such as sales or finance, that multiple people can use.
You might want to enable the automatic locking of an account when too many login attempts fail.
Finally, don’t share passwords. Password sharing makes it easy for hackers and bots to gain access to other people’s accounts. Instead, use unique usernames and passwords for each individual.
By following these guidelines, you can avoid being hit by a ransomware.
3. Implement multifactor authentication
Multifactor authentication adds an extra layer of security to login systems. This means that users need more than just to enter both a username and password to gain access.
Implementing multifactor authentication involves adding additional steps to logging in, such as requiring a phone number or email address.
Some companies even require apps to verify identity. For example, Google Authenticator uses tokens to verify identities.
This makes it harder for someone to hack into your system and steal sensitive data.
There are different types of multifactor authentication, including two-factor verification, multi-factor verification, and multifactor authentication.
Two-factor verification involves sending a code via SMS after entering a username and password. Multi-factor verification requires users to enter a username and password, plus something else to prove their identity, such as a mobile phone number or an app.
4. Use strong passwords
Strong passwords are also important, because if a hacker gets hold of your database, he can easily guess weak passwords and gain access to other accounts.
While people use complex and hard-to-remember passwords, with weird characters and numbers, this in fact is not the best strategy. Promote passphrases instead.
Passphrases are what they sound like: phrases used as a password. They are easy to remember, and longer than usual passwords, thus being actually more secure.
For example, “My horse jumps toward the bright vegetable and loves pink trucks” with 65 characters is more secure and easier to remember than “Fug3#tgGre”.
With or without multifactor authentication, set up policies to change passwords periodically.
For example, you can create a rule that changes a user’s password every 90 days.
5. Install antivirus software on your computer and mobile devices
There are two main reasons you should install antivirus software on your personal computer and mobile devices. First, it prevents ransomware from infecting your device. Second, it protects other devices on the network by preventing the virus from spreading.
Antivirus software works by scanning files and applications for malicious code. If it finds something suspicious, it quarantines the file or application and sends a warning to you.
This gives you enough time to remove the threat before it spreads further. Antivirus software can block threats from accessing your sensitive data.
Besides installing antivirus software on computers and phones, you should also deploy it on your server. Servers store confidential data such as financial records, customer lists, and other valuable information.
To avoid any form of malware, configure your server to run antivirus software. In a professional environment, you should always use professional antivirus solutions with a management console.
Managed solutions automate the process of updating antivirus software. They also monitor the activity of your antivirus software on every device and alert you whenever it detects a virus.
Finally, don’t forget to patch your operating systems. Operating systems receive security updates regularly to fix bugs and vulnerabilities. These patches contain security fixes that protect your computers and servers from hacking attempts.
You should apply these patches as soon as validated by your IT support to ensure that your computers remain safe.
6. Enable strong spam filters
Hackers often spread ransomware through malicious e-mails. So having a strong spam filter is key to preventing infections.
Spam filters can block malicious e-mails from getting to your users. They can also filter out e-mails that contain links to malware.
So if you’re concerned about ransomware, make sure you’ve got a strong spam filter installed.
This will lower the chances of your users being exposed to malicious e-mails. You’ll decrease the chances of clicking on a link that takes you to a website where you download ransomware.
7. Conduct awareness training
Ransomware often targets users because they tend to click links in unsolicited email messages without verifying them. This makes them vulnerable to cybercriminals.
To protect themselves from ransomware, users need to be aware of the risks involved. They should understand the warning signs of a phishing attack and avoid clicking on suspicious links. They should see untested USB Sticks as a risk of ransomware.
They should also educate themselves on the dangers of social media sites and online forums. These websites can spread malware and trick unsuspecting users into downloading viruses.
Finally, users should always verify by phone when they suspect an important e-mail might not come from a trusted source. By doing this, they can avoid falling victim to a scammer.
In conclusion, there’s nothing worse than having your computers or servers infected with malware. This type of software can steal your personal information, damage your files, and even shut down your entire network.
Fortunately, you now know several steps you can take to prevent these types of attacks from happening to your company.
Let your organization stay safe from cyberattacks!