There is no worse sinking feeling for any size business than to see your system startup and that black screen appears. It’s not your home page, it’s not your screensaver, and it’s definitely not your desktop pattern.
Instead, it’s the 21st century equivalent of the ransom note, except this time it’s your files, your data, your emails, and everything else your company holds valuable that has been taken, hostage. The hackers have broken through your defences, somehow, someway, and now they are inside the walls and have a monopoly on access to your system. The cryptic message on your screen intonates that there’s only one way out of this miserable development: You paying the ransom, usually in a cryptocurrency, within a narrow window of time. They promise to send you the decrypt to unlock your files if you make good on the payment. Otherwise, it’s into the great beyond for every single file you own.
This situation, which sounds like the plot to a bad 1990s movie, became painfully real for thousands of companies across the US and around the world beginning about halfway through 2012. The infamous CryptoLocker appeared on the scene in September 2013.
Having this tragedy befall your business does not have to happen, and even when it does there are ways to recover from it. This blog will cover how to prevent ransomware attacks and how to bounce back from them.
Ransomware usually enters a system in one of two ways: malicious email attachments or infected websites. Totally legitimate websites can unwittingly transmit ransomware through a browser exploit. In other words, you might have a security protocol in place and still get hit with ransomware. So, like Scar sang in “The Lion King”, be prepared. That means creating, securing, and making multiple redundancies of your company’s backups. Update them as often as possible so that if ransomware does hit, you can go on at nearly perfect business as usual. Make sure you keep these backups in more than one location as well, with at least one copy a physical one located offsite. Putting multiple copies of your backups on the same drive you use regularly can easily translate into the ransomware incorporating those files as well. The second step of this process involves training your employees to always have cybersecurity on their minds when they are dealing with email, any sort of messaging and using the Internet. Hackers work hard to simulate real-life, trusted events when they attempt to infiltrate your system. Very few people are using file attachments anymore, so seeing them should be a red flag that something might be amiss. If emails ask you to follow a link, copy and paste the link into a web browser to make sure it’s actually going where it appears to.
If you’re been burned by ransomware and are rebuilding, it could be a great time to invest in a cloud computing environment for your business. Ransomware is ineffective against businesses hosted on the cloud because the computers themselves don’t hold any valuable information. This is also a great time to upgrade your antivirus software in-house. If you’ve scrimped on your choice for budgetary reasons, do some research. Industry stalwarts like Bitdefender are reasonably priced and very effective. Lots of companies, especially startups and small ones, will scrimp on security measures because they believe themselves too small to get hit. The opposite is true hackers realize new companies don’t have big budgets and can be ripe for the taking.