Everything You Need To Know About Ransomware and How To Stop It
Today’s ever-advancing technology is steadily paving the way for vastly improving tools, devices, and applications that make daily life easier, as well as enable business operations in a wide range of industries to become more efficient. However, technology has also enabled unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on and exploit weaknesses in the technology for their own monetary gain.
You always had to be wary of viruses and malware, which have existed for decades. But over the recent decade, a new threat emerged that targets businesses small and large, and can potentially cripple business operations for an extended period of time. It is called ransomware—you may or may not have heard of it yet, but it’s out there, and any individual or business can be a potential victim.
What is Ransomware?
Put simply, ransomware is a type of malware that can be used by hackers to cause you to lose all access to your files on either a single computer, or an entire computer network throughout an organization. Access to the files is not granted until a ransom is paid to the hacker.
How Does a Network Get Infected With Ransomware?
Savvy hackers can find weaknesses in a network (usually networks that have not been updated with the latest security patches, or are not running updated and efficient virus and malware protection tools) to gain access to the system and install the malware. More often than not, the ransomware infects a computer when it is unknowingly downloaded through unsafe email attachments, hacked websites, and other links that may appear legitimate but actually contain hidden viruses and malicious programming.
What Happens When a System is Infected With Malware?
Once malware has been successfully downloaded and installed on a system, it can be next to impossible to remove it without actually paying the ransom. The malware doesn’t delete files; it encrypts them, meaning that you (and any other users on the network) will be able to see the files, but not access, open, or use them at all.
A message appears onscreen letting you know that your files have been encrypted, and providing details as to how you must pay the ransom in order to decrypt them once again. The message also usually states that failure to pay the ransom will result in you being unable to access the files again, ever. Failure to pay within a certain amount of time can also cause the ransom amount to increase.
What Businesses are Affected By Ransomware?
Without proper cybersecurity protocols in place, no system is ever safe from ransomware. Hackers have hit all types of businesses and organizations, from private schools and colleges to hospitals to police departments to major corporations, and especially individuals and small businesses that may not have even the most basic security measures in place. And with ransomware attacks steadily on the rise, it is more important than ever to remain vigilant in ensuring that you not only have a strong cybersecurity policy in place, including virus and malware detection and prevention applications, but policies that extend to employee education as well.
That’s because even with strong virus protection software and other cybersecurity protocols, it only takes one employee to accidentally and unknowingly download an infected file to compromise the whole system.
How Can I Protect My Personal System and My Business From Ransomware?
There are many things you can do to significantly decrease the risk of a ransomware attack, as well as other types of malware and viruses that can wreak havoc with your systems.
1. Keep Everything Updated
Yes, it can be annoying to consistently receive notifications regarding yet another update for computer software applications or the system software itself. Yet often those updates contain important fixes for vulnerabilities in the coding that hackers learn to exploit. Updated software ensures that you have the latest fixes in place to stop new attacks.
2. Keep Everything Backed Up
Be sure to run daily backups on all your files, using a cloud server or an offsite database. This way, if your files do become infected, encrypted, or destroyed due to a natural disaster, you’ll have backups ready to go and ensure that business operations can continue as usual.
3. Educate Employees
Teach your employees to be wary of phishing emails, unsafe email attachments, unsafe web browsing, and other actions that can contribute to the accidental download of malware and ransomware. Essentially, it pays to be wary of any email attachments from unknown sources, and a strict web browsing policy can also serve to reduce the risk of malware and virus infection.
Benefits of Hiring an IT Company that Specializes in Cyber Security
Unless you’ve got a dedicated cyber security team already employed at your organization, you aren’t 100% focused on cybersecurity. A dedicated team can monitor your network 24/7, ensure all the latest patches and updates are uploaded and installed as soon as they are released, and keep a watchful eye for any thing that might threaten your network’s security.
Through advanced security services that focus on preventing and eliminating threats from hackers, finding and fixing internal threats, and ensuring security compliance, a cyber security company such as Integrated Solutions can make a key difference in ensuring daily operations continue to run safely and optimally. Network security should be a number one priority for your business— protecting your information and your customers’ data is Integrated Solutions’ specialty.
Contact us today for a free Cyber Security Assessment!