How to Protect Against the Next Ransomware Epidemic
Ransomware attacks have been all over the news, striking fear into even well-endowed corporations worldwide. WannaCry, the ransomware responsible for the most publicized bout of hacks, targeted primarily healthcare providers throughout Great Britain. The assault put patients’ lives in danger. Doctors were blocked from accessing important patient information in hospitals and equipment used to diagnose various conditions, and entire systems were rendered useless. The outbreak did not just affect Great Britain, though. WannaCry manifested in about 200,000 devices located in 150 different countries.
For those unfamiliar with the term ransomware, the malicious program is designed to encrypt the victim’s data and block the screen with a “ransom” demand, generally requiring payment via Bitcoin to release the information. Access to any data available on the device is blocked and to make matters worse, its release is not ensured by submitting to the ransom request. These cyber-attacks have put companies in jeopardy by threatening important information, severely limiting progress at the workplace.
A quick consultation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) page on preventing ransomware attacks contains a lot of pertinent information. Coupled with the available WannaCry reports and feedback, here are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind at the workplace.
- Update all antivirus and antimalware services
Antivirus and antimalware software provide the optimal front line defense for any cybersecurity scheme. Yes, a few items may unfortunately slip through, but it is essential to have an antivirus measure in place. The software should filter out almost all harmful material as long as it is constantly updated to remain up to date with the ever-growing hacker world.
Overwhelming, right? Don’t worry, even if there is no protective software already downloaded. Managed IT services exist for this reason, because there are thousands of companies willing to invest in a product to do the work behind the scenes. Managed IT providers will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the company’s network environment to determine which of the many cybersecurity defenses suits it best. Afterwards, a Managed IT team will continuously monitor the software for essential updates.
- Patchwork protection is a must
WannaCry was created to exploit a certain shortcoming in some of Microsoft’s programs that had previously gone unnoticed. However, with constant network and system support and a 24-hour help desk for hardware malfunctions, that point should never be reached in the first place. Necessary cybersecurity defense teams will continuously monitor your security services, updating them—or patching them—to further guard against the hacker environment.
- Maintain an independent backup server
The most terrifying aspect of ransomware assaults may not even be that they lock current company files. Worse yet, the malicious software allows the hacker to control the entire device, gaining access to important stored documents. In the ransom message, hackers usually threaten to destroy databases of all sizes, insuring the erasure of all information linked to the server.
That’s where the importance of having an independent backup comes in. Whereas the antivirus and antimalware software acts as a strong first line of defense, the backup system is that final defense system against cyberattacks. Think of it as an impenetrable wall that is updated as often as every five to ten minutes. In the unfortunate case of a ransomware attack, there should be no reason to concede to the ransom requests, because the system can be restarted to right before the attack using the independent backup server. The system helps limit downtime as well, because workers may just have to repeat the same processes that occurred just minutes before the attack, and keep in mind, that this is the worst case scenario.
By then, the remote IT group should already be working on finding a solution to the attack, and with the ability to call help lines at any time, ransomware protection teams can be notified immediately in case of an emergency. Even if the ransomware were to somehow manifest itself within the system, this ensures that the entire database can be retrieved, regardless of what the message indicates.
- Educate, educate, educate!
Arguably the most important action a company can take does not include Managed IT. Ransomware prevention starts with effective training for employees. Something even as simple as a ten-minute seminar identifying and teaching others how to identify potential causes for concern makes databases less susceptible in the first place, as the ransomware is usually activated through common messaging systems, such as email and text.
To help out, here are some common signs of a potential virus:
- Emails from unrecognized sources
- Emails or messages asking you for private information
- Emails or messages with unknown attachments
The information session’s goal is to attempt to limit the amount of human error involved in these attacks. An open line of communication is necessary, and if a worker sees something, they should be encouraged to alert the right people, whether that is a call to a Managed IT service or a personal technology support staff. Be skeptical, because nobody wants to deal with a potential catastrophe at the workplace.
Ransomware is scary, but there are safeguards that can greatly decrease the likelihood of an attack. Most involve security protection, but the first step is to educate employees to be vigilant for potential manipulative messages. But still, with the evolving hacker industry coupled with the inevitability of human error, it is best to partner with an expert Managed IT service to cover all possible bases, because it would be a shame for a company to plummet with so many cybersecurity defense systems out there.