Ransomware Threats

Posted on: May 19th, 2017 by Alexander Wright No Comments

The recent WannaCry ransomware attack caused panic and disruption across large swathes of the IT planet. So how can we stay safe in the future?

The media warned us that new variants of the ransomware would be released this week. Fortunately there has not really been any evidence of this so far but the next attack may just be round the corner.

No doubt anyone that had their data encrypted and their business disrupted will be putting new safeguards in place right now, but what about the rest of businesses and IT users? Once the dust has settled, will everyone go back to their same old ways?

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The thing to remember about Ransomware and a lot of malware infections in general is that they are largely activated by an end user action. With this in mind, there is an awful lot of protection that can be gained just by following some simple advice.

 

1: Don’t be tempted to download unnecessary software to your machines. Any pop up that claims to “protect against malware”, “speed up your PC” or “install toolbars” should be firmly avoided. If you do want added protection – which you certainly should, make sure it’s the genuine article first of all before downloading. A quick Google search will tell you whether this is great product or the gateway to something more sinister.

2: Try to restrict use of business PC’s for business use only. Beware of some internet shopping and news channels. A retail customer that came into one of our stores recently, clicked on a spoof news feed that said “Celebrity dies at the age of 52”. Result was that her PC was locked by ransomware.

3: Be wary of clicking on any links sent via email. This also may be a link sent from someone that you know. A good tip to follow when opening any link is to first of all hover the mouse pointer over the link. This will reveal the URL that would be activated if you were to click on it. If it appears in any way suspicious, don’t click on it.

4: Be cautious about opening any pdf or zip file attachments being sent to you, unless you know that someone was going to send an attachment to you in that file format.

5: Ensure that any valid software is downloaded only from the official software manufacturers website. Read the T&C’s and remember to un tick any boxes that would otherwise give authorization to download other 3rd party software.

6: Use multiple external hard drives for data backup and make sure that these are rotated regularly. Always keep one back up drive unplugged from the network as anything plugged into the network would otherwise be encrypted by ransomware.

7: If using Cloud based backups or synchronization tools, remember that these too can be compromised so you may well need to rely on older archived data backups.

8: If your business has a network setup and you have been saving data locally on your PC (rather than on the server), think about whether you would be lost without this data. Your server may be backed up in some way but is your PC? Remember if backing up your PC manually by USB stick or external hard drive, unplug it from the system once the back up has completed.

9: If you are unfortunate enough to become infected, never plug your precious data back up back into the system. This is your lifeline!

A lot has been made during the recent attack about some organizations reliance on outdated Windows XP PC’s. Now it may well be that XP, and other older operating systems have all the security of a leaky sieve and should certainly be replaced, but we shouldn’t rely on modern operating systems either. Absolutely, systems should be kept up to date, the latest security patches be applied and good Internet Security packages installed and run however, the hackers at large will currently be working out new ways to exploit our systems. Being streetwise and following some simple precautions can often be the best protection.

 

 

Alexander Wright Alexander Wright (40 Posts)