Don’t be held to ransom…

Ransomware is fast becoming one of the biggest security threats to computers worldwide – the practice of extorting money from people in return for letting them access their files is now hitting mobiles, media players, even smart TVs and internet-connected cars!  So what is Ransomware and how can you stop it?

Ransomware is a type of spyware that infects your computer, encrypts your files and won’t decrypt them until you pay up.   Sadly it’s becoming massively prevalent because people are paying – CryptoWall made $325 million for its creators! The reason so many people are paying these criminals is simple – once the files are encrypted then the only way of decrypting them is to pay up or to restore from a backup.

Paying seems to be the quickest option and often in a business environment it means being able to recover files without too much disruption.  However coughing up also gives your card details to known criminals so you can expect fraudulent transactions to follow soon after and there are no guarantees that your computer won’t be left with residual spyware or malware afterwards too.   We had a client who paid only to get a different strain of ransomware the day afterwards so was back to square one, but £200 out of pocket.  We’ve also heard of cases where people have paid but still don’t get their files unlocked – who would have expected criminal gangs to be untrustworthy!?

Ransomware is spread like any other spyware or malware – through rogue email attachments, websites that pose as legitimate pages and recently even through adverts found on trustworthy sites including the BBC, MSN and the New York Times.    Preventing it is fairly easy though – it’s a mixture of common sense and having up to date AntiVirus and AntiSpyware protection on your computer, and making sure you always install the latest updates and patches to Windows and your Mac (yes, this affects Apple computers too!).

If you’re unlucky enough to be hit with Ransomware then you’ll find your files become unreadable.  Sadly the only way to get them back is to restore from a backup, so it has become even more important that you back up your files, and do so regularly.  This might mean using USB drives or storing your files on an online backup or file storage service.  Retention is the key – if some of your files become encrypted and you don’t notice for weeks then you might find your backup doesn’t go back far enough to rescue the files.   A good online backup service gives at least 30 days of backups to choose from, and at Systemagic our service gives a year’s retention.

Our recommendation is simple – make sure your backup works, check how long you could be offline if you were attacked, and consider a business continuity solution for your business.

If you’re worried about ransomware or confused about whether your backup is up to scratch then why not give us a shout?

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