Among all threats to an IT infrastructure, ransomware is one of the most dangerous. In this post, we will figure out what is ransomware and share some tips to protect a small business from the threat.
What is Ransomware and Why You Should Beware
Ransomware is malicious software that locks files or a computer until its owner pays a ransom for decryption. Ransomware infiltrates into a business infrastructure by the following ways:
- By users who download it visit compromised websites.
- As a payload of malware, another kind of malicious software, which downloads ransomware to the infected computer.
- As an email attachment.
- From USB-sticks and other external media devices, which came from outside the office.
According to the US Department of Justice letter, at the beginning of 2016 Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received nearly 7,700 public complaints regarding ransomware since 2005, totaling to $57.6 million in damages (ransom costs and data losses). In 2015, victims paid over $24 million in nearly 2,500 cases. The real scale of ransomware pandemic is much bigger worldwide.
Everyone is vulnerable to ransomware attacks: there are reports from schools, hospitals, non-commercials and even private individuals. Moreover, there is no guarantee that hackers will unlock your data after you pay a ransom. So, we have to protect our IT systems and data ourselves.
How to Prevent Ransomware Damage
Since cybercriminals often use email attachments to attack businesses, always check who is the email sender. Ransomware may be at the back of bank notices, invoices and other business documents. Microsoft Word, Excel and PDF files are the most common ransomware carriers. Don’t fall for personal and business details in the email: cybercriminals are professionals in gathering information. Display extreme vigilance if the sender is hurrying you or is talking about an emergency, e.g. a late payment.
Another source for ransomware are media devices, so lock up USB ports on corporate user desktops or disable the autorun feature in Windows. Criminals are inventive, so ransomware often looks like Windows folders and document icons that are, in fact, executable files. Teach users to use network shares or invent a file server for documents transfer within the office.
Besides, you can limit user permissions on their computers reducing possible damage and create a website blacklist preventing ransomware download. That won’t restrain staff working ability, but it will minimize the risk of accidental infections from click baits and social engineering.
Regardless of how well your staff is trained, there is always a chance for ransomware to slip in. So, choose trustworthy security software. The point is that malware and ransomware websites sometimes offer “free security suites” for download with a lot of fake user reviews. If you aren’t ready to invest in reputable security suits by big companies like ESET or Kaspersky Lab, read reviews on professional platforms to find a suitable product. Check reports of trusted companies like Gartner, Inc. to keep in touch with IT security trends.
If ransomware successfully infiltrated into the system, the only way to restore data is backup recovery. The point is that malicious software is sneaky, and you may copy already locked files before noticing it. So, make backups with an ability to recover past file versions. It increases storage consumption, but backup apps like CloudBerry Backup have retention policies and delete outdated versions automatically. If the retention period of your data is long, you may use cheap cloud facilities like Amazon Glacier or Oracle Cloud Storage Archive.
And the last tip – if you notice suspicious software on your computer, disconnect from WiFi or local network immediately. That will prevent ransomware spreading over the network and protect other computers and servers.
Three Tools to Fight Ransomware
In the advice above we talked about different tricks, but it may be effortful to implement them in small businesses. Considering this, we recommend you the following three basic tools:
Use a good email filter to prevent occasional infection from emails. Even though there is a direct email attack on your business, the filter will cut off a plenty of risks.
There are lots of good tools:
Implement offsite backup software. If the backup server and data are kept away from the local infrastructure, they will stay safe in case of ransomware infection or other disasters, and you’ll be able to recover quickly. Moreover, the backup app must support file versioning. If the software occasionally copies a locked document, versioning gives a possibility to roll back and retrieve untouched data.
Install anti-ransomware software. It is cheaper than a complex security suite but provides a durable protection from malicious applications. Besides executable files detection, it blocks users trying to visit compromised websites.
Check, for example, the following apps:
Note! While choosing anti-ransomware software, find some reviews on the Internet and in forum discussions to evaluate the efficiency of the tool before installation. Download it only from official websites: malware often accompanies third-party downloads.
Now you know how to protect a small business from ransomware. But don’t forget that malicious software is just one of many possible threats to an IT infrastructure, and there are much more data losses due to software and human faults. You can try safe cloud backup technologies with CloudBerry Backup 15-day FREE trial as an important element of anti-ransomware protection.