Minimising a Ransomware Attack

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a piece of software that has been installed or downloaded to a computer, that once activated it will block access to that computer system until a sum of money has been paid. Typically, the sum of money demanded is not a large amount compared to the cost of time and effort it might take to restore or otherwise resurrect the files.

For example, your work computer containing important documents has been held ‘hostage’ and you are required to pay USD$500 to regain access to your files – when calculating the time and effort required to restore the computer back to the original state, even with good backups, you are likely to exceed that figure.

Two well-known ransomware threats that have received considerable press coverage recently for their widespread nature are the WannaCry and Petya attacks. These aren’t the only Ransomware threats out there, there are hundreds and they won’t stop circulating.

How do I minimise my risk of getting ransomware or having to pay for my files to be decrypted?

This is truly a case of being vigilant and taking precautions so as not to be caught out and taken advantage of by a Ransomware attacker.

On your computer

Make sure important data is not only stored on the computer! Backing up important files to an external hard drive (not attached permanently to the computer) is a good idea. It is important to note that cloud backups with an automatic sync (such as DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc) may also be infected due to the infected files syncing. It poses the question; do you always need to have these turned on by default?

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Ensure that your operating system and antivirus is up to date (including latest security updates and virus definitions) and that you use some form of ad-block to avoid the threat of malicious ads. To go even further, refrain from using an administrative account on your computer and disable macros in Office products by default.

Keep your browsers updated and remove outdated plugins and add-ons from your browsers. Remove Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Java and Silverlight from your browser plugins - if they are needed then set the browser to prompt for activation when these plugins are required to run.

General Behaviour

Learn the typical signs of a spam message and don’t open any suspected spam message from an unknown sender.

Be very cautious of any attachment within an email that you are not expecting. Sometimes a contact could be caught out and a virus distributed from their email account, which may look totally innocent. If in doubt you can ask the user whether they intentionally sent the attachment to you, over the phone or IM.

Be extra cautious of all links in emails, as links can be made to look valid but take you to malicious sites instead.

Conclusion

The best form of protection against a virus or ransomware is prevention. By changing your mindset around emails, links, attachments and computer updates you can drastically increase your chances of avoiding these threats. Stay vigilant!

For more information on minimising a ransomware attack in your business, speak to a member of the Advance team today!