The recent global cyber attack that caused major problems for organisations and businesses around the world – including the UK’s NHS – was executed via ransomware.
Far from being a sophisticated new cyber attack strategy, ransomware is a type of malicious software that has actually been around for several years.
Yet, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of Windows computers that were unexpectedly hit by the WannaCry attack, businesses are still not focusing enough priority on cyber-proofing their operations.
What is ransomware and how can you guard against it?
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a malevolent software that is usually transmitted via emails or web pop-ups. It ‘locks’ computers – and the data stored on them – and threatens to destroy it if a ransom is not paid.
Falling prey to a ransomware attack can, like all other forms of cyber crime, significantly damage your business – through loss of confidential data, financial information and damaged reputation. In the case of the NHS, it can put massive strain on critical services.
4 steps to take in protecting your business from ransomware attacks
Learn how to spot fishy-looking emails
Ransomware attacks – including, experts believe, the WannaCry one, typically infect computers through email attachments.
So one of the best ways to avoid falling victim to ransomware is to learn what these suspicious emails might look like. Keep an eye out for:
• Emails from unknown senders or strange addresses
• Emails that are full of spelling mistakes
• Emails with unusual formatting or subject lines
• Links taking you to suspicious-looking pages
If in doubt, just don’t open it.
Back-up your data
Ransomware criminals are after your data. Typically they will sell it on to criminals on the dark web. That is why companies in the medical, financial and healthcare industries are prime targets for cyber gangs. They hold vast swathes of confidential – and therefore lucrative – information.
So back all of your data up somewhere external – such as a physical hard drive. Then, if you are affected by an attack, be safe in the knowledge your data is still stored somewhere safe.
Install anti-virus software
If your business is relying on the anti-virus software that came with your machines, think again. While these offer some layer of protection, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with something more sophisticated in case a genuine attack does happen.
Consider outsourcing your IT security to a professional team – they’ll be able to advise you on the best course of action to take.
IT security training
This is one of the most important things you should do. Often, cyber attacks spread like wildfire because someone has – unknowingly – clicked on a malicious email, downloaded a dodgy attachment or clicked on a dangerous link. On doing so, a ransomware attack can break rapidly, infecting hundreds and thousands of computers in a matter of hours.
So invest in IT security training so your employees know exactly what to look for. They’ll be your first line of defence.