It's a normal Thursday morning. You unlock your business, preparing to open for that day. You turn around the lights, set down your stuff, and log in to your computer.
Or try to.
Your computer screen is frozen on the very scary-looking screen that says that your computer has been locked which you need to pay a lot of money to get it back. You you must do everything you can think of, but the screen stays put very stubbornly. You're super locked out-and super panicked. You'll need your computer to run your business! With a sick feeling in your gut, you stare at the screen, wondering how in the world you are going to get out of that one.
So, what happened? Ransomware happened. We'll explain what ransomware is and how to avoid falling victim to it.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware if basically software that infects a computer to avoid it from working the way in which it should. Either the entire thing will be locked, as in the scenario above, or certain files will be encrypted and locked until payment is granted – usually in Bitcoin or other difficult-to-trace currency. Ransomware has become a popular go-to for hackers, which is why it’s important to know how to avoid it and the way to avoid phishing scams.
There are two types of ransomware: lock-screen and encryption.
Lock-screen may be the scenario above in which the entire computer is blocked. You’re left with a ransom note. Sometimes it comes with a very scary and official-looking – but very fake – message in the FBI stating that you've violated a US law which they've taken your computer until you pay a major fine. (The FBI wouldn't resort to this kind of thing should you broke the law. They'd follow proper legal measures, of which ransomware is not a part.)
Encryption ransomware is where a number of your files will become encrypted or basically scrambled and unreadable. The hacker will instruct you via pop-up message to buy a decryption (de-scrambler) key from them or all will be lost. And, as you can guess, the encryption key isn’t cheap. Sometimes they provide you with an action-movie-worthy countdown, too, threatening to erase everything if you don't pay by time it hits zero. Or they might threaten to double the fine the greater time goes by.
The results of ransomware:
For businesses, ransomware means downtime, lost productivity, and lost income. You cannot operate without access for your files or system, which means lost income.
How does ransomware happen within the first place?
Ransomware can impose on computers from access to websites that aren't super secure and have been compromised. It can also originate from opening an email, link, or attachment that's infected. From there, the ransomware can spread to an entire system or network.
Should I pay the ransom?
Most experts say no, don't pay the ransom. There isn't any guarantee that you'll actually get your computer or files back, and by paying the cybercriminal you encourage them on their dark path of cybercrime. Plus, you paint a target on your back for future attacks. We'll talk about methods for you to avoid spending in a second.
How to prevent ransomware and protect your business.
Make sure your employees understand what ransomware is and how to detect suspicious emails – for example, poor grammar, bad spelling, weird URLs, and funky email addresses are giveaways. It is important they know how to protect your company against online scams. You should also make sure that everyone knows what to do if their computer ever gets ransomed and produce a protocol for the business.
This is how you can avoid spending up if you get attacked. Should you have a secure, safe, and up-to-date copy of all of your important files, the hacker just lost their leverage. Take that, cybercriminal!
To support your data, you can use external hard drives and USBs. Yes, it might seem tedious and time-consuming, but it is vital that you have backups anyway Let's say your computer gets fried when the sprinkles go berserk? Yep. Bet you'd be glad to have those backups. Just be sure to remove the drive from your computer and store it in a safe place so hackers can't get that copy, too.
You can also do cloud backup storage, but make sure to choose a super-secure method with lots of high-level encryption and multi-step authentication.
Updates for your computers' software and security are extremely important. Hackers find and exploit weak spots, which these updates are usually meant to patch.
Bottom line: give your computer the tools it must protect itself. This is a big a part of mitigating your business's IT risks.
Anti-virus and anti-malware software can protect against malicious attacks. Firewalls are also good, too. Make certain your computer network has a strong line of defense.
Cyber liability insurance protects your business against a variety of computer and internet-related risks. Talk for your agent to discover how cyber liability can protect your company and help you from a major pickle. Just be sure the policy covers cyber extortion, ransom, and the associated losses (time, income, etc.)
If your business's computers get taken hostage-
- Don't pay the ransom.
- Disconnect the computer from the web so it can't infect any healthy devices.
- Report the attack to the FBI.
- File a complaint with the web Crime Complaint Centre.
- Get help ridding your computers of the ransomware.
- Use your backups to obtain back on your feet.
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