It’s the newest internet threat, showing up in the press as well as in TV shows as a shadowy presence forcing innocent computer users to act against their will. The urban legends are dire; the reality is more complicated but equally dangerous. What is ransomware, how can it be avoided, and if you are affected, how do you fight back to regain control over your computers and your privacy?
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a viral computer security flaw that demands money (often in the form of anonymous internet gift cards for programs like iTunes) in exchange for the return of access. In some cases, the nefarious cyber villains spreading the virus will hijack the computer’s webcam or install a keylogging program, gather personal information or images, and then threaten to share them with the computer owner’s contacts if a “ransom” isn’t paid. It’s of particular concern in business settings where sensitive corporate or client information is at risk and enforcement of proper security measures across all employees can be complicated.
How can we avoid ransomware?
It’s nearly impossible to accurately vet every single web page you visit, or perfectly scan every email you receive. Furthermore, many antivirus programs miss ransomware in their scans. But good browsing hygiene can make a significant difference in avoiding ransomware. The vast majority of ransomware arrives via email. The following strategies are your first line of defence:
- Don’t open email from unknown senders. Although this won’t protect you against spoofed emails or domains, it does lower the risks.
- Don’t click on unfamiliar links within emails, or download unfamiliar files. This should be standard practice in avoiding cyber crimes and holds true for ransomware as well.
- Be prepared. Most companies know they’re supposed to regularly backup files and data, but just as we all know we’re supposed to floss daily, it’s easy to overlook this critical step. If you have regular, automated backups of information, ransomware can be an inconvenience but not a disaster.
- Utilize layered security. A firewall alone is insufficient cyber security, just as one antivirus program isn’t enough either. Using multiple programs and processes to regularly scan and assess your employees’ systems will allow fewer risks to slip through.
What should I do if I am impacted by ransomware?
Even if you implement every suggestion and recommendation, it is still conceivable that you or one of your employees will be susceptible to ransomware. Your options, at that point, are generally dictated by your previous preparation and consistent enforcement of company security measures.
- Best-case scenario. You’ve already got a recent backup on hand and simply wipe your device and reinstall the operating system and your backup.
- Second best option. Working with an IT professional, you can often use a high-level antivirus program with your system in Safe Mode or restore a previous version of your operating system and then try to decrypt your files and recover hidden files.
- Never pay the ransom. This cannot be emphasized strongly enough; never pay the ransom! Even if the hackers do decrypt the system, the chances are high that they will have stolen valuable information or left other malicious software in place.
Speak with a Vault Networks professional for assistance against ransomware
It can be alarming or overwhelming to try to prevent ransomware and other viruses in a business setting, due to the numbers of employees and difficulties in standardizing security practices. That’s why Vault Networks’s professionals are here to help you prevent and recover from ransomware attacks. If you have questions or would like to learn more about how Vault Networks can assist you, contact our security experts at 888-865-4261.
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