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What is Ransomware and How Can You Protect Your Business Online?

You might have heard about the recent global ransomware attack called WannaCry that took place over the weekend of May 13th, 2017. The cyber attack affected over 150 countries and has been called the largest global ransomware cyber attack in history. Unfortunately, too many small and large businesses have made the false assumption that a cyber attack won’t happen to them, until it’s too late. What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that finds a loophole and locks down your computer’s files. It then demands a form of payment to the hacker, and often asks for bitcoins due to its universal currency. Most ransomware attacks on average demand between $300 to $2,000. However, there is no guarantee that when the victim makes payment the hacker will unlock their computer and the files held ransom. It’s a dangerous situation that can often leave businesses paying thousands to retrieve stolen sensitive data and important files. What should I do if I get infected with ransomware?

If a machine in your environment becomes infected with ransomware, TURN IT OFF and unplug it IMMEDIATELY to prevent it from spreading to other computers in your network. Then contact a professional, to have the system inspected and reviewed. Many professionals have contacts within law enforcement that can also help.

...So you might be wondering, how can one stay protected in today’s online world?

*This article is non-biased, and written by an IT agency in Indianapolis, IN. None of the manufacturers provided any payment to be featured in this article.

The 4 steps to protect your business

Step 1: Backup your files! The best defense is having good backups of your files. Computers will fail at the most inconvenient times, so having your files stored in another place is always wise. If your computer becomes ransomed, your chances over recovering them are low. A good way to have solid backups is to follow the 3-2-1 rule. You should have 3 different backups, 2 that are on different forms of media (maybe an external hard drive and a folder on your server), and 1, the last of those backups should be off site (usually in cloud storage). Diversifying the storage of your files in an organized manner can save you in the long-run from more than just a cyber attack. Carbonite is a great platform to daily back up and organize files, both for individual computer workstations and large company servers. NE-INC provides data recovery, server hosting and management to protect your files.

Step 2: Keep your computer current and up-to-date (especially with Microsoft) Usually machines automatically have updates being pushed from Microsoft, however your computer may not be properly getting these updates automatically. You may have to manually get Windows Update to install these patches. Oftentimes, over time, the automatic update feature can become corrupt. Other software packages need updating too. Products like Java, Adobe, Firefox, and Google Chrome need regular updates to keep them secure. Desktop Central is a powerful tool as a platform to remotely and securely update computers in a managed fashion. It has other advanced features that NE-INC provides to its customers, helping us automate fast IT support functions.

It's not worth the risk. Is your business is secure online? Click Here to get a free evaluation.

Step 3: Have a good Anti-Virus on all your machines, and keep it updated. In any business environment, free antivirus only gets so far. Viruses can be cloaked inside of files, which makes them difficult for antivirus to identify and stop. However the behavior of a file can be observed to identify it and stop it from wreaking havoc. If you are an IT administrator, you need a way to easily manage the machines' antivirus in your environment and be notified if specific machines become infected. It is good practice to have all machines using the same antivirus so that it is easier to manage. If you have laptops that come back and forth everyday to work, who knows what kind of viruses they may be bringing back with them. Make sure those machines especially have a good antivirus. NE-INC recommends using Trend Micro products because they are easy to manage, highly secure, and affordable. There are a variety of Anti-virus products available today, but not all software is created equal.

Step 4: Firewall Security is everything. Firewalls are a VERY important layer of defense. Firewalls are hardware that stands between your computers and the Internet. They are absolutely essential for any business to protect themselves online. They have an internal gateway antivirus that can prevent infected files from entering your business network. The firewalls that NE-INC recommend to our clients are by Watchguard. This company has engineered a tiered-system of security, providing multiple layers of defense in each firewall. Once powerful feature with WatchGuard is their WebSense filtering, blocking sites by category, and reputation enabled defense that can block known malicious sites. WatchGuard firewalls observe the behavior of downloaded files, blocking those that attempt to install software, modify the registry, or perform other malicious acts.

In today’s world of business, hackers around the world are getting much better at targeting companies of all sizes. No matter the size or industry of your company, you can never be too prepared for when disaster strikes. It will often happen when you least expect it. At NE-INC, we believe the best preparation involves multiple layers of protection for every business.

It's not worth the risk. Is your business is secure online? Click Here to get a free evaluation.

Dave Spilker is the President of NE-INC and has over 30 years of professional IT experience. He has worked with the U.S. government on cyber security projects, and currently helps small and mid-sized Indiana businesses plan, build, and manage their IT infrastructure.

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