Ransomware | What is it & How Can You Avoid it? | Xuper IT

Ransomware – What is it & How Can You Avoid it?

Ransomware is a malicious software that blocks any access to the victim’s data until the demands of the hacker have been met. Usually this involves them threatening to publish or delete your files unless a ransom is paid. However even if you pay, there’s no guarantee you’ll get access to your data again. Ransomware is often spread through email attachments and infected websites that are carrying malware. Businesses are often targeted as once the virus is within a business network it can quickly spread to all the devices on the network.

Your computer and software will keep working, but your personal files, such as documents, spreadsheets and images are encrypted. The attackers then retain the decryption key and will give you a period of time to pay them for the key to release your data.  Ransomware became a greater threat when cyber criminals started to request payment using bitcoin. (Bitcoin is an internet currency that allows for anonymous transactions, making it very popular with cyber criminals).

How does ransomware access your computer?

Usually victims are tricked into running programmes that contain the ransomware. Typically, by downloading email attachments or links which may appear to be from a legitimate source.  Ransomware can range from being an inconvenience but a simple scan of computer will fix it to your data being at major risk and completely needing a new computer.  

Scareware for example will spam your computer with pop ups while you’re on the web. Usually they will claim they’ve found a large amount of malware on your computer and they’ll fix it for a small fee. This type of ransomware is just a scare, they’ll try and frighten you so you’ll act without thinking, however this can usually be fixed by simply doing a quick scan of your computer.  

Locker ransomware won’t show up until the next start up following your computer being infected. A lock screen will appear stating you’ve been found guilty by the government of committing a cybercrime and they’ll unlock your screen if you pay them. However, in reality the government wouldn’t lock your screen and you can’t just pay them off if you’ve done something illegal. Often these attacks can be fixed with a system restore.  

A crypto ransomware is more than an annoyance; they are an actual threat to your data and your business. Often targeting people through email, once the infected attachment has been download it will encrypt every file on the computer and sometimes the entire network (depending on the virus). They will then request payment to get access to your files again. This is not easy to recover from as even a day’s loss of files could set your business back for months.  

What you can do

There are steps you can take you try and avoid a ransomware attack;

  • Educate your employees – it is vital to ensure your employees have a good understanding of cyber security as it’s likely they’ll be the one”s targeted and could download an infected attachment.
  • Never download an attachment from and untrustworthy source or one you don’t  recognise – look out for spelling changes/mistake in emails, attachments or website addresses
  • Make sure you follow all basic cyber security methods such as building and maintain a custom firewall, installing good antivirus, keep software patches up to date etc.
  • Back up your vital data on a daily basis (preferably to the cloud). This way if you are victim to a ransomware attack, you know you’ve got your important files stored safely elsewhere.
  • Whether you’re a small or large organisation, you can still be victim to cyber-attacks. According to figures from the ‘General Business Findings Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017’ just under half of all UK businesses had at least one data breach or cyber-attack in the last 12 months – 17% of these were ransomware.
  • If you don’t have in-house IT managers, then consider outsourcing your IT support so you can be confident your vital data is secure. (Read more about the benefits of outsourcing).

Xuper

You should also ensure your cyber security is meeting the standards set by the GDPR. If you are victim to a cyber-attack and are found to not have the correct security in place you could face major fines.  

 Xuper are a global IT support company and can offer cyber security consultancy, solutions, and services. We are ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited so you can be confident your data is well protected. For more information on cyber security or to inquire about a cyber security audit, contact us on 01332 362481 or hello@xuper.co.uk