Ransomware attacks are on the rise. If everyone at your business isn’t careful, you could end up at the mercy of a ransomware hacker – costing you thousands, or even millions of dollars (not to mention a major blow to your reputation).
Fortunately, there are strategies that can help you guard against a ransomware attack – and mitigate the damage, should one occur.
What Is a Ransomware Attack?
Do you know what a ransomware attack is exactly? Ransomware is a type of malware that demands payment (the “ransom”) from its victims in exchange for unlocking the victim’s device or preventing the release of sensitive information.
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Ransomware can function by completely locking users out of their own devices – sometimes affecting hundreds to thousands of employees at once – and unless the ransom is paid (usually via cryptocurrency), everyone will remain locked out.
Some ransomware hackers may also seize personal information or proprietary information and threaten to publish it if the ransom is not paid.
The Importance of Cloud Backups
The most important tool you have in this fight is cloud backup software, which negates the threat of most kinds of ransomware. When you have the right cloud backup tools, you can back up all your systems and company data on a regular basis.
If a cybercriminal should seize control of your systems and physical devices, you won’t lose any data – and you can simply restore your system to a previous version as if nothing has happened.
How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
Even with cloud backups in place, it’s a good idea to make a systematic effort to prevent ransomware attacks from victimizing your business. This could save you a lot of time, money, and hassle – and protect your company image.
These are seven of the best strategies to employ:
- Train all employees to follow these precautionary measures. For starters, make sure all your workers are trained on how to prevent ransomware attacks. If even one individual commits a simple mistake, such as giving out a password or using an unknown flash drive, it could compromise your entire network.
- Keep your systems up to date. Most software developers and tech companies are constantly on the lookout for potential threats. If there’s a security vulnerability in their system, they’ll identify it and issue a patch – but that patch can only protect you after you download and install it. For this reason, it’s crucial to keep all your internal systems up to date. Turn on automatic updates to make it more certain.
- Don’t click on unsafe links. A common vector for ransomware attacks involves duping people into clicking a link to a fraudulent web page. If you refrain from clicking untrustworthy links, you can avoid this vector altogether. That may be easier said than done since some fraudulent links can appear trustworthy – but most of the time, suspicious links are easy to spot.
- Don’t open suspicious email attachments. Similarly, it’s important never to open untrusted email attachments. Images, PDFs, and other file types may contain malware that can infect a single computer and invade an entire network from there. You should only download attachments from users you trust and make it a practice to scan email attachments as they come in for additional protection.
- Don’t plug in unfamiliar USB drives or discs. Curious employees are sometimes tempted to insert flash drives, CDs, and other storage media into their computers – just to see what’s on them. However, this can be a critical mistake. If the storage drive is loaded with malware, it could easily infect the device. If you don’t know and trust the device, it shouldn’t be plugged into your computer.
- Use strong password protocols. Make sure you follow strong password protocols. All your employees’ passwords should be as robust as possible, with a long string of characters that includes a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, special symbols, and numerals. In addition, nobody should use the same password for multiple different accounts – and it’s a good idea to change passwords on a fairly regular basis. Train your employees never to give out their password to anyone – even if it’s requested by someone who appears to have appropriate authority.
- Use firewalls and VPNs. Firewalls aren’t capable of protecting your business from every threat, but they can help you filter out certain types of traffic, and better control the flow of information across your network. Similarly, VPNs will provide an additional layer of security – especially if you’re using public WiFi.
These prevention strategies should be sufficient to guard against the majority of ransomware attackers. But if you’re ever the victim of an invasion, don’t pay the ransom; even if you did, there’s no guarantee the attackers will follow through on their promises.
Instead, revert to a previous iteration of your systems. If you’ve been backing up regularly, this shouldn’t be an issue.