Maybe you heard on the news about the latest ransomware attack called Wannacry. So far it has infected computer systems in over 99 countries. British hospital systems, Fedex offices, a French car manufacturer, and others have been hit by Wannacry. There has been some efforts by computer security researchers to stop the propegation of this ransomware, but like the game of whack a mole, new variants have been released.
Here are some common questions and answers about ransomware:
1. What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that once installed, it begins to encrypt files on a computer system rendering the files inaccessible and then demands money be paid by the end user to the cyber criminal in order to retrieve those files.
2. How does my computer system get Wannacry or other ransomware?
The typical way ransomware is distributed by disguising itself as an email from a legitimate company with an attachment asking you to open the attachment. Or there may be a claim that you need to click on a link in the e-mail to access important information. Using security holes in outdated software on your computer, the malware runs silently in the background, encrypting your files and then displaying a warning screen such as below:
3. My business is small and I don’t need to worry about these threats. They only target large businesses.
FALSE!!! The FBI estimates that in 2016, victims will have paid out over $1 BILLION DOLLARS in ransom to get their files back. Small businesses are the perfect target because you may not have the resources to fend off threats like this. The financial burden from dealing with the infection can cost thousands of dollars in lost productivity and IT repair costs.
4. How do I protect my computer system from getting ransomware?
You need to have current anti-virus software installed. You need to be installing all Microsoft and 3rd party updates such as Adobe Reader and Java. You should refrain from opening any e-mail attachment if at all possible, especially those from people you do not know. Don’t click on links you are not familiar with. Make sure your computer systems are supported by the manufacturer. Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP or Windows Vista as an example. Those older computers should be replaced with current supported computers. Most importantly, YOU NEED TO HAVE A DATA BACKUP SYSTEM.
5. How does Snow Pond Technology Group protect its clients?
If you subscribe to our managed IT services, your computer systems are protected with anti-virus, all software patches are automatically installed and verified, and we use spam filters to block infected and suspicious e-mail attachments. This service is affordable starting at $5.00 per computer per month. We have installed and tested on-site and cloud data backup systems to allow restoration of any files that may get encrypted, corrupted, or deleted by ransomware, malware, or by accident.
6. What if my business does not subscribe to your managed IT services, what can I do to protect my business?
Have your employees open Windows Update on their computers and install all of the critical Microsoft updates. March 2017 update includes a fix to prevent the spread of Wannacry Ransomware in particular. Check Adobe Reader on each computer and install the updates. Check Java updates as well. Educate your employees to not open e-mail attachments or visit non-business related websites.