How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware Attacks

In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack struck computers across the world. Businesses and financial markets were crippled by this cyberattack. Government agencies, hospitals, and universities struggled to stay open and operate as the malware locked up systems and data. When it’s all finally calculated, the financial and productivity losses to the attack could reach as much as $4 billion.

The success of WannaCry has led to the rise of more ransomware attacks like Petya and Bad Rabbit. Businesses that aren’t protected by solid IT security risk data loss, lost productivity, and expensive ransomware removal or ransom costs. We’ll take a close look at how ransomware works, and the cybersecurity measures companies can take to protect themselves.

How do Ransomware attacks like WannaCry work?

Ransomware is malicious software, or malware. It infects a computer or computer system by encrypting user data or blocking access to the system until a ransom is paid. Ransoms are typically paid in untraceable bitcoins or cryptocurrency.

Normally, phishing spam is used to access a computer. Malware is distributed in an official looking email that entices the user to click on a link or attachment. For example, a fake energy bill, tax return notification, or mail delivery notification will be sent to a massive email list. The email will push the user to a link or attachment. Clicking on the link will load the ransomware.

Sophisticated ransomware will automatically attack holes in computer security. Less sophisticated malware will attempt to trick the user into providing admin access to the computer, allowing the software to encrypt data or block access.

Once the malware has access, the user will receive a notice demanding a ransom. Ransomware removal is difficult. Simply deleting the software or rebooting the operating system (OS) won’t help. Even after removing the virus, you won’t have access to the encrypted files without the decryption key. If you don’t pay the ransom, you’ll have lost your data.

How to Protect Your Business from a Ransomware Attack

Recovering from a Ransomware attack is often expensive, but it is possible to prevent an attack from occurring in the first place. Taking a few simple steps to protect your business can minimize the risk from ransomware attacks.

1. Minimize Admin Access to Computers

By limiting the admin access of employees on a computer you can minimize the risk of malware. Creating strict protocols for loading new software on the system, even software through a web browser, will also provide protection.

Employees may need to add new programs or apps to their devices from time to time, but your IT security team should make sure that the software loaded on the system comes from a reliable source. If you can, load it on a test machine separate from the network first. Make sure employees and your IT team are trained and aren’t clicking on dubious links in emails and websites. Taking the time to train employees is a key aspect of cost-efficient cybersecurity. Training can prevent ransomware from ever getting in your system and network.

2. Install Antivirus Software on Computers

Antivirus software can identify potential malware and ransomware, preventing problems before they happen. Whitelisting software – a variant of antivirus software – prevents unauthorized apps from executing or loading on the computer. Both strengthen IT security against ransomware.

IT security experts and third-party suppliers can also help protect your business from malware. They can provide your business with the latest security measures and antivirus software. The right partner can manage remediation steps and ransomware removal if a virus or malware does infect your network. They can save you time and money, while providing additional protection for your data.

3. Keep your OS Updated with the Latest Patches

Do you have a patch strategy for your computers? By keeping your OS up to date and loading the latest security patches, you can prevent ransomware attacks. Patches and updates to the OS eliminate the software vulnerabilities the malware attempts to exploit.

Set up a software patch program for your office. Assign an IT resource to manage it or contact an outside resource or trusted third-party supplier to manage software and OS updates. They should ensure all the computers have the most up-to-date patches.

4. Keep your Files Backed Up

Make sure to back up all your computer files regularly. Consider backing them up nightly if possible. It may not prevent a malware attack, but it helps in the ransomware removal process. Backing up files can also minimize the damage and protect your data in case of an attack. Making the switch to cloud data storage also offers greater security than saving to a hard drive.

Protecting your Business in the Age of Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is out there, and it threatens businesses, schools, healthcare systems and government agencies. Taking the time to protect your business can save you significant expenses in time and money when an attack occurs.

Want to learn more about ransomware attacks and how Managed Network Services can help protect you and your business? Contact CDS Office Technologies today.