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What is ransomware? And how can you protect your business against it?

Posted by Karen Houghton | 13-Mar-2017 16:38:02

Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system's screen or by locking the user's files and demanding that a ransom is paid - and it’s one of the most significant threats to company security right now.

A criminal moneymaking scheme, ransomware can be installed through deceptive links in an email, instant message or website.  For businesses who are affected by a ransomware attack, the consequences can be devastating.  Ransomware can paralyse a company’s operations,  therefore businesses of any size need to be savvy about preventing and defending against these kinds of attacks.

Knowing how to repond if your company is attacked by ransomware is critical, but preventing ransomware attacks in the first place can save your business thousands of pounds in losses and ensure your company continues to run efficiently.  

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks on businesses have grown considerably in the past year, with approximately 40% of businesses  around the world infected - however  following some simple steps will help you to minimise the risk of an attack within your organisation.

So what can you do to prevent your business against ransomware? Here are a few simple steps to follow:

1. Use a Layered Security Approach

Installing multiple layers of cybersecurity protection can detect and block ransomware attacks before they happen. Using a layered security approach, with all endpoints protected, as well as protection at the mail server and gateway means you you can stop ransomware from ever showing up in an end user's mailbox, which means you're always ahead of the game.

2. Educate Employees

One of the most common ways that computers are infected with ransomware is through social engineering and employees are key to protecting against this. Your employees web browsing habits and knowing how to deal with unsolicited emails are essential in keeping your systems safe from ransomware.  As part of induction to any company we would highly recommend explaining the do's and don'ts of your internal IT policy including; deleting unsolicited emails without opening them (especially those with attachments), not clicking links in emails or on websites when they don't know where they go, remaining vigilant to online threats, not downloading software from the internet and not visiting websites they don't know to be safe.

3. Build a Comprehensive Backup Solution

Backing up company data should be part of the job - however you should also be aware of the types of backup needed to protect against ransomware.  Most businesses will backup their data, but some may have not tested whether these backups work in an emergency. Ransomware can infect a whole network so just having a backup of your files and folders on a network connected server may not protect your business. In the same way, data backed up to the cloud will not fully protect you either, as files and folders will sync with those on your computer so, if not caught early, the cloud copy will also become infectedl. You should backup your files to an external hard drive so that it’s stored off-site - and if you’ve opted for cloud storage, which many businesses do nowadays, then there are services available that will take snapshots of your data and store them away from the risk of infection. Choosing the right backup means if you do come under attack, you shouldn’t be afraid to just turn the system off and start over with a new install.

4. Limit Access

Limit access to file shares to only those who absolutely need it. Ransomware infections can spread from local drives into shared network areas so ensure access is only given to files and folders which are necessary for employees work. The fewer users have access to, the less chance there is of a widespread infection.

5. Keep Software Updated

Ransomware  frequently relies on people running outdated software with known vulnerabilities, which they can exploit to silently get onto your system. Don't delay in making sure your software is up-to-date, and make sure important security patches for all software is installed as soon as they become available.

6. Scan Emails for Threats

Make sure that your emails route through a service where malicious attachments and links will be caught and quarantined. Scanning and threat analysis for your emails can help to reduce the threat of ransomware.

Ransomware is a real threat, but if you follow these few simple rules it's highly unlikely you will be the victim of an attack.  Being knowledgable on your system will ensure improved data management and analysis and will enable threat patterns to be identified before they become  major incidents.  And, in the unlikely event you do come under attack, you will have the backups to restore your data rather than submitting and paying the ransom.

How to choose an IT company

Topics: MSP, cloud security

Written by Karen Houghton


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