How to protect your data from ransomware

In this article and video, we look at how to protect your data from a ransomware attack. First, we explain what ransomware is and how it infects your IT systems. Next, we look at some of the costs associated with a ransomware attack besides the ransom itself. Finally, we suggest four things you can do to help prevent an attack or ensure a swift recovery after one. In our view, there is no reason to be held hostage by ransomware.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware. Malware is malicious software designed to harm computers, servers and IT networks. Ransomware holds your data hostage using encryption and demands a ransom is paid to release it.

How ransomware gets access to your systems

Ransomware can get onto your computer or into your IT systems in many different ways. It can be hidden in infected software, downloaded by email and launched from malicious websites.

What happens once I’m infected?

Initially, you might never know that your computer is infected with ransomware. Instead, the ransomware might remain hidden so that it can spread across your entire network. Once it has spread, the ransomware will encrypt all the data files it can find, taking them hostage. Next, you will receive a ransom demand, usually on screen. It will look something like this:

Ransomware ransom demand screen

To pay or not to pay?

Typically, we would recommend you don’t reward criminal behaviour by paying the ransom demand. After all, there is no guarantee your data will be restored. Some cyber-criminals will copy your data and sell it on the dark web whether you pay or not.

The ransom isn’t the only cost

Ransomware can temporarily close down your business. Your staff cannot work. You cannot respond to customer calls or emails. Business suffers. You will have to report the data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). If you didn’t take the proper security precautions, you could face a big fine and negative publicity. You lose even more business.

How to protect your data from ransomware attacks

There is no such thing as 100% security. Nevertheless, four things can help mitigate the risks of cyber-attack.

First, invest in some new tech. Old hardware and software is typically more vulnerable to the latest malware. Use the latest firewall, spam filter, anti-virus and threat detection software to build a defence-in-depth.

Second, update regularly. Install software upgrades and security patches immediately. They are specifically designed to safeguard your systems against the latest threats.

Third, backup your data often. Follow the Rule of 3: keep three copies of your data; store two copies of your data on different storage media; and keep one copy of your data offsite. Run regular tests to ensure all your data is recoverable (don’t wait until something bad happens).

Fourth, educate your people. All the high-tech security in the world is worthless if an absent-minded employee opens a malicious email and accidentally downloads ransomware. Security awareness training is one of your best defences against cyber-attacks. It’s important to educate your workforce to understand the risks and spot the latest threats.

For more information on ransomware and malware prevention visit the National Cyber Security Centre. Alternatively, download our handy PDF on the Rise and Rise of Ransomware.

Ransomware and malware represents and real and present danger to your business. The small cost of taking four preventative measures can save you a fortune. To know more about safeguarding your business from ransomware attack, contact Modern Networks today.

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