As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing we are bombarded with emails for sales and deals. But shoppers aren’t the only ones looking to cash in by utilizing promotional emails. Nefarious cybercriminals know a surge in cybershoppers means plenty of opportunities for businesses to click on the wrong link and fall victim to a lucrative type of malware that nets them several million dollars a year – ransomware.
How Ransomware Works
Used by cybercriminals for many years, and becoming more and more sophisticated every day, ransomware attacks aim to lock and encrypt your most sensitive data to then extract a ransom from you in exchange for regaining access.
The process starts with a simple phishing attack; a legitimate-looking email with a fake coupon attached, a “spoofed” website for a business that offers services you need, or a phony email from someone you trust directing you to a can’t-miss a deal. No matter the bait, the goal is to infect your system with a specific type of malware that immediately encrypts all your data and then shuts down your access. Once you’re locked out, a ransom is demanded by the hacker and most likely required in a crypto-currency that makes the transaction completely untraceable. Worse yet, paying the ransom provides no guarantee you’ll ever get access to your data again.
Preventing Ransomware Attacks
So how do you protect yourself from falling prey? Here are a few tips:
Back Up and Update Your System: The main precaution to take is ensuring you are consistently and thoroughly backing up your systems. Making sure to take multiple backups both locally and in the cloud means you have leverage in any ransom negotiation and that you can quickly restore access no matter what parts of your system you get locked out of. Updating and installing security patches in web browsers, software, and hardware like printers or routers, also helps repair vulnerabilities in your network and may prevent certain types of attacks.
Segment Your Network: If your first lines of defense (firewalls, passwords, intrusion prevention systems) fail, a flat network infrastructure will mean that attackers have access to all your data. A network segmentation, either physical or virtual, limits communication between servers and workstations within the system so that those who gain access won’t be able to move freely through it. By slowing down the attack and limiting its effects, segmenting your system buys you extra time to recognize the breach and protect any parts that are unaffected before the malware can spread.
Educate Yourself and Your Team: Ultimately, prevention of phishing and malware attacks comes down to human awareness. Make sure to carefully examine any email with an attachment and make sure it’s from someone you trust. Don’t click on links from unknown sources and don’t provide any sensitive information (passwords or personal info) through email or over the phone if you don’t have to. Never use public WIFI on work devices as they are easy to breach. And in turn, it’s paramount that you make sure your staff does the same. Educate them, set stringent security protocols, and check in with them as often as you can.
The Ultimate Protection
By far, the most effective way to dissuade cutting-edge malware attacks is to partner with a managed service provider (MSP) that can keep an expert eye on every aspect of your cybersecurity for you. A dedicated MSP can ensure you have a team of qualified professionals working around the clock to assess the flaws in your system and combat the latest trends in cybercrime as they arise.
If you’re looking for a powerful ally in the battle against ransomware attacks, consider contacting Net Works. Our cybersecurity professionals stay locked in and focus on thwarting insidious threats like ransomware, so you can worry less and put the focus back on your business.