Ransomware is one of the biggest threats for modern businesses. Once ransomware infects your network it can encrypt your files rendering your IT systems unusable until the ransom is paid, or the attacker chooses to decrypt it. The attacker may also steal the information from your machine while it is encrypted and then leak it onto the dark web, meaning that even if you pay the ransom your details (or your customers’) may still be at risk of being used by other hackers in future attacks. This can cause entire networks to become unusable, and attackers show no mercy in which organisations they choose to target. Even hospitals have been unable to carry out surgeries as a result of their systems being infected with ransomware.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is software which infects a computer and prevents users from accessing it until a ransom is paid. Additionally, some ransomware will threaten to leak your business’s sensitive data online if the ransom is not paid.
What Are The Risks Of Ransomware?
A Ransomware attack can be devastating for a business, preventing them from performing even the most basic task until the ransom is paid or the attacker decrypts it. No company is too big or too small to be a target either. In fact, entire countries’ infrastructure has been compromised by ransomware. The 2017 WannaCry ransomware was so widespread that the United Kingdom’s health service had to cancel scheduled surgeries for several as their systems were unusable.
How Does Ransomware Spread?
Email is a major attack vector for ransomware. Users are often tricked into downloading ransomware via phishing emails which pretend to be from reputable contacts.
Drive-by downloads, where a user visits an infected website and unknowingly downloads ransomware, are also a common method of delivery.
Once ransomware has infected one machine on your network, it can quickly spread across your network and infected every vulnerable machine it encounters. This can render your entirety of your business IT unusable in very little time.
How Can I Protect My Network From Ransomware?
Keep Your Operating System Up To Date
One of the most vulnerabilities which allow ransomware infections is having an out of date operating system. Ransomware often targets operating systems which are out of their update cycle (Windows 7 or Windows XP for example). You should ensure that all your devices are updated to the latest version of their operating system and have the latest security patches installed. If you have any devices which are running older, unsupported operating systems, you should replace them immediately.
Install Ransomware Protection
There are several ransomware protection programmes which can help to prevent ransomware from infecting your network and/or prevent it spreading among machines on your network. Trend Micro, BitDefender, and Cisco Ransomware Defense all have features that can help you prevent and recover from ransomware.
Exercise Caution When Clicking On Links Or Downloading Attachments
As we mentioned, most ransomware is delivered through email attachments and malicious links. This is why you should exercise caution before clicking on unknown links and avoid downloading software online from unreputable sources.
Keep Backups Of Your Data
Having a secure backup of your data which is separate from your network is an effective countermeasure to ransomware. While having a backup does not itself protect you from ransomware, and is not a substitute for effective ransomware protection, it can help to mitigate the damage the ransomware can do If you are able to effectively recover your data.
Alternatively, you could keep a virtualised backup of your entire network and continue working in the cloud while you work to remove the ransomware from your on-premises systems.
Partner With A Managed IT Provider
Partnering with a managed IT services provider, specialising in cybersecurity and ransomware prevention services will give you the best chance of protecting your network. As well as installing and managing your ransomware protection software, a managed IT services provider can also help to back up your data and they can be called on to restore it as part of a disaster recovery response service should a ransomware infection ever occur.
Hopefully this has been a useful guide to the basics of ransomware and the correct steps to take towards effective ransomware prevention. For more advice, it is recommended you contact a local managed IT services provider.