Cybercriminals make millions from ransomware exploits.  They attack indiscriminately, looking for careless users who make one bad click. The click triggers automatic encryption of everything on the machine, and only paying a ransom will get it back.  Here’s how to click carefully and help protect your business from ransomware.  

If you don’t have a current backup, your choices are to pay up or lose your data.  Ransom fees can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  Enough people pay to make ransomware lucrative.  That’s why the threat is here to stay. 

Even with a current backup, a ransomware attack will cost your business money.  The infected machine will need to be reformatted or replaced, and there’s the time it takes to restore the lost data.  Depending on the extent of the loss, you also may incur legal fees and other expenses. 

That’s why you should take all the precautions you can to protect your business from a ransomware attack.

Technology Is Not Enough

There are powerful technology tools available to help protect your network, including anti-virus, anti-malware, security patches and DNS blocking tools.  However, hackers are clever and they devise emails that trick spam filters and other security tools.

The final gateway for cybercriminals is opened at the keyboard of every user.  Tech tools will not protect your network if users are careless.

Phishing Emails

“Phishing” is malicious email correspondence that tries to get you to “take the bait” by clicking on an infected attachment or embedded link.  “Spear phishing” is a more refined form of phishing where the email appears to come from someone you know.

9 out of 10 phishing emails are now ransomware, according to security firm KnowBe4.  So, it’s important to be vigilant with email.

Here are some tips to help avoid carelessly clicking on a phishing email:

  • Don’t open or preview email from people you don’t know or are not expecting.
  • If you know the sender but the subject line is strange, double-check the address. Make sure the address is a reasonable match with the sender’s name and organization.
  • Even if you’re expecting a file, if the file name looks strange, don’t open it.
  • Delete any request for personal information or offers of help.
  • Don’t unsubscribe from spam, just delete.
  • Open “questionable” Junk email in Junk box. This will disable any links in the email.
  • If you’re a finance person, do not transfer funds requested in an email, even if the address is correct, without confirming first. Cybercriminals have become adept at finding email addresses from public sources and using them to trick you. 
  • Be careful when clicking on links.
    • For example, a link to a CRU blog post on protecting from phishing emails looks like this:  http://crusolutions.com/blog/email-phishing-security-risk-business/
    • Be suspicious if the URL includes words that don’t make sense and apparently random letters and numbers. Otherwise, employ the same cautions as you would with an email attachment.

Malvertising and Infected Websites

Malvertising can be hard to avoid. These are infected ads that are carefully designed to look legitimate. Unfortunately, you won’t know you’ve made a mistake until it’s too late.  While it takes a few extra steps, if you’re interested in an ad it’s safer to do a Google search and go directly to the site rather than clicking through the ad.

It can be tricky to know whether or not a website is infected.  For known infected sites, search engines may alert you when you do a search.  If you see the warning, avoid the site. 

Otherwise, avoid sites with offers that seem too good to be true, or that cover topic areas that are illegal, immoral or unethical.  Obviously, no process is fool-proof and legitimate sites are routinely hacked, but be smart when you’re searching online.

If You’re Attacked

If you’re attacked, you’ll know because icons on your screen will start to change and a ransom screen will pop up.  Unplug your computer immediately and contact your IT support. 

Everyone is Responsible

In your office, every person who uses a computer is responsible for clicking carefully and keeping your network safe.  Share this post with your team to help them be vigilant to protect your business from ransomware.

 If you need help with your business IT, contact CRU Solutions