Rise of ransomware: How to protect your business
Friday, November 18, 2016
There will probably never be a clear account on how many types of threats lurk on the World Wide Web, but one thing is for sure: We have never been in more danger from cyberattacks. Though it seems internet users have learned their lessons when it comes to falling for popup ads and suspicious email, black-hat hackers have evolved as well, and they are continuously finding new ways to earn a quick buck on security-unaware people.
The latest form of malware that has shaken the internet to its core is ransomware, which entered the stage in 2013. Tens of thousands of people were victims of this threat — not just regular internet users, but public institutions as well.
Ransomware caused a great deal of turmoil when it took the web by storm, but is now much more manageable and constricted, thanks to never-ending efforts of white-hat hackers to keep things under control. However, this form of malware still poses a threat — especially if you're running a business that isn't much preoccupied with its web security.
We'll discuss in this article what you can do to protect your business and your sensitive data from ransomware, but first, a few words of what ransomware is and how exactly it can endanger you.
What is ransomware?
The definition of ransomware can easily be guessed just from its name. This malware puts your infected device into a hostage situation.
Cybercriminals code all your files, not allowing you to log into your device — all you get is a screen with a message that unless you pay a certain amount of money within a certain time frame, all data on the device will be destroyed.
As you can see, it's not a pleasant situation to find yourself in, especially if you've got a lot of precious data on your PC or smartphone, and panic is what these hackers are aiming for. Do your best not to despair if this happens to you, as there are ways to protect yourself from this kind of trouble. But it is necessary to stay calm.
Ransomware initially sprouted in Russia in 2013, and in just three months various security software companies tracked down a quarter-million versions of ransomware, which is not really comforting information.
There was even a recent ransomware attack on government servers in Madison County, Indiana, where a large chunk of county computer systems were simply locked and impossible to use. Fortunately, authorities managed to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently without paying the ransom money, and some confidential files like voting records were stored separately from the rest of the system.
Ransomware attacks also happen often in hospitals, because denying access to patients' health records is something no hospital can afford, which is exactly what criminals profit from.
Cybersecurity has come a long way since 2013, and today there are many ways to protect your personal devices, as well as your business's security, as long as you stay cautious. These are some of the foolproof actions that you can take to keep your company and your confidential information out of harm's way.
It all starts with people
If you are at all familiar with how security risks find a way into your computer in the first place, then you know it is mostly due to unawareness and lack of knowledge when it comes to security measures that one can take. It is paramount to educate yourself and know what you're dealing with, because running a business means knowing where problems might arise at all times.
Ransomware creators prey on the ignorant, which is why you should invest both funds and time into educating your employees about the basics of cybersecurity. Ransomware most often finds its way into a computer system via email, which means only a couple of clicks in the wrong direction can end up in potential disaster.
This is why it’s crucial for your staff to know what they're dealing with and steer clear from any suspicious email that ends up in your company's inbox. Also, make sure they inform their managers if something fishy starts going on, so there is enough time to act and find a solution.
Have trustworthy antivirus software
Having good antivirus software is a must when you're running your own business, even more so if a good portion of that business is conducted online. This means you will have to pay for an antivirus business plan to get protection that will safeguard your from ransomware and some more advanced attacks, as well as from the usual malware, viruses, etc.
There are many high-quality antivirus programs you can choose from, but do your research to be sure the software will cover all the levels of protection you need. Once you've made your choice, the program will pay close attention to your emails in case ransomware shows its ugly face, alert you about it and then destroy it. This comes in handy because the process is automated, and you won't have to worry as much about one of your employees having a slip of the hand.
Back up your data frequently
And when I say frequently, I mean every day. Yes, this is a boring task, but you can benefit from this on other levels besides protection. Whatever happens, you have a Plan B with all the necessary data to start over.
Depending on how big your business is, there are different ways to back up your confidential files, be it on a separate hard drive or in the cloud. Pick a way that makes the most sense to you.
When you back up your data frequently, you can relax because all of your crucial data is already stowed away safely. If backing up by separate hard drive, make sure it doesn't stay plugged in once you're done, because then it will be in just as much danger as any device you've got in your office.
Restrict user access to confidential files
It's really good and grand that you believe in your colleagues and your staff, but the truth is you never know where threats could come from. You need to be careful with your trust and to whom you're extending it, because a significant amount of security problems come from inside of the company.
It's not easy to find a mole in your ranks, but you can prevent having one altogether if you simply limit the access your employees have. Determine who your administrators should be (yourself included) and make sure they're trustworthy.
After that, it will be much easier to control the situation, as long as you remember not to stay logged in with your administrator access and, of course, steer clear from any suspicious files you stumble upon. Even if an email seems like something that might be of use to you, delete it and move on if you're not sure where it's coming from.
Ransomware is the latest threat that has made us become more alert about our internet security and all the ways it can be breached. Needless to say, there will be more new threats in the future with which we must learn to cope, but taking precautions is a good start.
You can never be too careful when running a business, and protecting your sensitive data from cybercriminals is a long-term commitment to help every aspect of your business thrive.
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