Malware, spyware, worms and bots. Lions, and tigers and bears. So many different things that can attack your computer, steal your data, and wreck your day. One of the most notorious has been the development of ransomware. (FYI. Ransomware isn’t actually all that new – some version or other has been around for decades). Ransomware is a type of computer virus that takes your data hostage and like any kidnapping scheme, demands money for the release of your data.
Why is ransomware so dangerous? Because it steals a very important thing your organization possesses. Data. Student data. Financial data. Loan data. Ransomware is a type of computer virus that kidnaps your data and holds it hostage for money. It has become increasingly common attacking governments and all manner of businesses and not-for-profit organizations, including educational institutions. Worse, once infected there generally isn’t a way out, or at least certainly not an easy way. No one can “disinfect” your machine. You aren’t going to be able to call in IT support to solve the problem. Basically, you have three options:
1) Pay the ransom. This payment is usually via credit card or cryptocurrency. Some ransomware viruses even provide help lines if you’re having trouble with the payment process. Of course, there are no guarantees you will get access to your data – these are thieves you’re dealing with.
2) Don’t pay and lose your data – This has its obvious downsides, unless…
3) You have a safe, clean backup. In that case, you are stuck with the nuisance of restoring your data. However, this comes with a caveat: your backups have to be clean. The problem with ransomware viruses is that just making backups may not be sufficient to protect your data, as the backups can be infected also.
What can you do to avoid falling victim?
The bottom line is proactive prevention is the best cure. Follow standard “data hygiene” principles that you hear about all of the time. Update your OS, software, and apps whenever a new release or patch is released. Do this ASAP. Some patches may be released solely as a result of the discovery of a vulnerability. Watch out for phishing scams. If anything looks “off” about an email, don’t open it. Never open links you aren’t totally sure of. If unsure, CALL the sender to verify they actually sent you a link. The most important thing you can do to make sure your data cannot be held ransom is strictly adhering to a regimen of backups. Routinely backup your data. However, even backups may not be foolproof. If your data has been infected and you are unaware of it, or the backup is not segregated from your network, your backups may also be corrupted. Given the severe consequences of a ransomware attack, consider having a security evaluation done by one of our security engineers who will have the expertise to advise on the best backup protocols for your situation. Contact us today to schedule your evaluation!