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Beware! We are in the age of Ransomware.

Derek Alvey

Corporate Director of Information Technology

 

Have you ever logged into your computer only to find that all of files are completely unusable?  They may open, but the content is coded and makes no sense at all.  Next, you go to your pictures to find they, too, are not accessible.  Panic sets in as a popup window comes up on the screen stating that all of your files have been encrypted and you can only get them back by paying a ransom. 

This is a growing attack by hackers called "Ransomware".  Hackers use sneaky tricks to get the necessary files onto your computer, which then begins silently and invisibly encrypting your files in the background.  To make matters worse, if you are in a business environment, the virus will continue to encrypt any mapped drive files so the whole company's data is vulnerable.  You do not even know you are a victim until it is too late.  If your only option is to pay the ransom, you are unintentionally supporting this behavior. 

It is important to understand how these threats enter your computer.  The primary route is through spoofing, phishing and spam emails.  A large percentage of these attacks come from a dangerous email.  Do not open emails from sources that you do not know.  It is even more difficult to decide if you should open an email, when the sender is someone you recognize.  This often happens through email spoofing and phishing emails, which can look legitimate until you actually open them. Since deciding whether or not to open up these emails is so difficult, it's best to ensure sure other means of protection on your computer and company network.

How can you protect your computer data?

  1. Make sure you have a well-known antivirus solution that runs real-time protection on your computer.
  2. If an email looks suspicious in any way, contact the sender and ask them if they actually sent it to you.  
  3. Backup. Backup. Backups.  There's no better way to protect your personal and/or company data then having a true backup system in place.  While there are a wide range of backup solutions to choose from, a single computer can be well served with cloud-based backup solutions such as Carbonite Backup, OC Backup or Crash Plan.  None of these are free, but they are reasonably priced and allow you to recover from this type of attack without paying the ransom. The small- to medium-sized business might look at protecting servers with Dell's Rapid Recovery solution or Datto's Business continuity solution.  Both offer a robust solution for business redundancy and allow a business to completely recover their files if they are ever encrypted by this type of attack.

Ransomware is on the rise and the developers of these vicious cyber attacks are continuing finding ways to adapt to user behaviors and antivirus solutions.  The only true and sure way to protect your data and not pay a ransom is to have solid data redundancy and a disaster recovery plan in place so you can respond to these threats quickly and get back to work. 

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