Whether you’re a business or residential consumer, ransomware is a very real and very serious problem. If you fall victim to ransomware, it’s bad—and in some cases, just plain ugly.
What is Ransomware?
“Ransomware” refers to a malicious computer virus. These are particularly nasty because they operate using a three-pronged approach: infection, exploitation, and ransom. Once infected, the virus exploits your computer system by encrypting your documents, photos, videos, and even program databases, rendering them completely unusable. The perpetrators of the attack then leave behind a ransom demand with instructions on how to make a payment to get the files decrypted. This demand can be very official-looking, seeming like it is from a government agency or a computer software manufacturer like Microsoft. Neither the government nor private companies will ever legitimately “lock” your computer or encrypt your files. These illegal programs are deployed by hackers.
How Can You Protect Against Ransomware?
The good news is that if you have managed IT services you’re already protected from most sources of infection through regularly maintained security patching, antivirus deployment, and proper backup solutions. As a managed IT service plan customer, all security patches are regularly reviewed and deployed to ensure that your machine is kept up-to-date. The same goes with antivirus updates, which are critical for protecting against newer strains of attack viruses.
There are occasions, however, when even the best defenses can be breached through user error and critical data still gets encrypted. In a typical ransomware attack, victims receive an e-mail addressed to them, with an attachment or link that appears legitimate but in fact contains the malicious ransomware code. If this happens to you, managed IT services provide an invaluable means of recovery through a continually maintained backup solution.
What If You Are the Victim of Ransomware?
The bad news is that without managed IT services and properly maintained protocols in place, you’re left defenseless in a sea of opportunistic hackers just waiting to compromise you and your wallet. If you don’t have an off-site or cloud-based data backup, you may be willing to pay virtually anything to get back crucial files like financial statements or irreplaceable data like baby pictures. If you decide to pay the hackers—which the FBI recommends against doing—it may not be easy: most hackers demand payment in the form of “bitcoins.” This is a digital asset and payment system that uses peer-to-peer transfer of virtual currency, which can be a confusing hassle. Even if you successfully regain access to your files and decrypt them fully, the collateral damage of lost time and frustration translates to lost revenue.
The really ugly part is even harder to accept. Despite the fact that most hackers intend to profit from infecting your computer and holding its data ransom, some hackers are content with the simply encrypting the data itself, effectively destroying it. Even paying hackers what they demand is no guarantee that your files will be decrypted—or that they won’t come back looking for more money.
Why is it Essential to Protect Your Data from Ransomware?
One ransomware infects your machine, it can encrypt files and folders on local drives, any attached drives, backup drives, and potentially other computers on your network. Many users and organizations may not even be aware they have been infected until they can no longer access their data or they begin to see computer messages advising them of the attack and demands for a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key. Without constant system-wide monitoring, ransomware can spread like wildfire through your organization’s IT assets, crippling your business, costing you money, and exposing you to potential liability for data breaches.
Dymin Services, based in Urbandale, Iowa, offers comprehensive managed IT services plans to help you and your business protect your IT assets against ransomware, viruses, and other malicious software and make sure your data is properly backed up. If you’ve fallen victim to malware, our data recovery specialists can help you try to rebuild and recover your assets. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation at your offices to talk about how our IT professionals can help your business with all its computer needs.