Ransomware is one of the most popular choices among hackers today due to its effectiveness and various forms of attack. Essentially, ransomware locks you out of your files or renders them inaccessible through encryption until you pay a ransom. Typically, hackers who perform ransomware attacks demand payment in Bitcoins – a nearly untraceable and valuable form of digital currency. Additionally, there are few tools available to rid your system of ransomware once it has embedded and encrypted your files.
If you want to know how you can avoid this entire headache, read further on how to prevent this fiasco from happening to you and your business in the first place.
Keep Your Defenses in Place
The best defense against ransomware infections are the same best practices most internet-savvy people follow during any online activity:
- Never open emails from suspicious senders. Always verify the return address of any email before you open it. Many hackers attempt to disguise their email addresses by mimicking legitimate senders. For example, some letters look exactly like other characters in certain typefaces, so hackers may replace a lowercase letter “L” with an uppercase letter “I” to dupe targets into trusting the address.
- Never download attachments from untrustworthy emails. It’s a good idea to verify any attachments you receive in emails before opening them. If the message comes from someone you know, it’s a good idea to call them up and verify that they sent you something. Some ransomware variants will attempt to spread to other users on a target network, and may use victims’ email to send more malicious links to other users.
- Keep your operating system up to date. Most operating systems will stop supporting older versions of their operating systems after a while, so it’s vital to always keep your operating system updated with the latest version. Newer updates may contain defenses against known malware and ransomware, and your antivirus and antimalware applications will most likely need the latest version of your operating system to function correctly.
- Make sure antivirus and antimalware/antispyware programs are kept up to date. You should ideally try to perform an antivirus and antimalware scan daily. Additionally, check for updates to make sure you’re protected from the latest known threats. However, be wary of scams.
- Some hackers pose as antivirus or digital security tools in order to gain access to your system. In many cases, these programs act as an antivirus tool for free within a very specific set of parameters, but over time, they will start to bog down your system with bloat files and other tactics to encourage you to pay for the services. Only use trustworthy antivirus and antispyware programs that have been officially approved by your organization and thoroughly vetted.
- Maintain backups of your data. If you have a reliable backup, there’s no need to pay a ransom should ransomware encrypt your files. However, it’s important that you take care when updating your backup. If your system is already infected, you may unintentionally corrupt your backup by uploading infected files to it.
- Digital security experts recommend a 3-2-1 policy for backups: try to maintain three backup copies of your data at all times. Arrange them so that they are in at least two different locations, with one of those locations being separate from your network. A remote backup or cloud-based backup can be very valuable.
- Maintain awareness based on your vulnerability. Some industries and businesses are riper targets than others. Healthcare organizations, government agencies, law enforcement departments, and schools are some of the biggest ransomware targets. This is because these kinds of institutions typically have access to much more money than individual victims and stand to lose much more if they refuse to pay.
One particularly cruel example is attacks on hospital systems that lock healthcare professionals out of patient information, rendering them unable to continue treatment safely. Patients’ conditions can potentially worsen with every minute the organization is locked out of its files. If you work in a high-value target industry, it’s vital to maintain safe practices throughout your organization and clearly communicate the vital nature of digital security to all employees.
If you’ve been hit by ransomware in the past, you must identify how the ransomware accessed your network in order to prevent more exploitation in the future. In some cases, this may be accomplished by thoroughly educating users on your network about phishing scams and suspicious emails. You may need to reassess your data backup configuration. In other cases, you may need to upgrade essential parts of your network.
Consult With Digital Security Experts
Unless you happen to have access to highly proficient in-house digital security experts, you may need to hire a digital security firm to help prevent future ransomware attacks. The right team will be able to identify your biggest vulnerabilities and address them. Additionally, digital security professionals can help your organization better understand safe internet use. Making cybersecurity part of your company culture is absolutely essential in today’s data-driven business world.
If you're interested in identifying potential vulnerabilities in your network, give us a call to schedule a FREE Network Security Assessment by our team of experts. You've got nothing to lose and peace of mind to gain.