It's a painful reality, but if crime truly didn't pay, people wouldn't try it so often. One burgeoning type of cybercrime is a new spin on the old taking-a-hostage-for-ransom scheme. Instead of a loved one, however, the modern target will be your computer system or your most important electronic files.
Essentially, ransomware is just like any other computer virus or malware. You click on an email attachment or on an unfamiliar link and your system gets infected. (Smartphones are also at risk!) Bad guys may also use social engineering tactics to trick you into putting your files in their hands. Suddenly you're shut out of your system or prevented from getting your files. Then you get the ransom demand--with payment likely required in Bitcoin--to prevent tracing.
What is so galling about ransomware is that there really is no recourse other than to pay the crooks! Your focus then must be on prevention. Here are five steps you should take to avoid being a victim:
Don't open a file or click on a link you don't know. We all know this, but we still forget occasionally. We get distracted or are maybe too eager to get going with a project. Plus, criminals get better and better at concealing their true intentions. Be vigilant--always!!!
Automate your precaution. Oh wait, we do this for you. Because you're on The SynchroNet Way, you get the protections of ManageMySpam. That said, if you check your personal email at work, make sure you set your email to filter out messages with EXE file extensions and also make sure Windows is set to show hidden file extensions. (Criminals often try to pass off EXE files as PDFs or something innocuous. Even be cautious about opening Word documents which can still contain malicious scripts; if you see a request to enable scripts, decline it and telephone the sender to verify contents).
Back-up your data ... outside your system. Keep copies of your files in the cloud, on an independent server, a device for backup and disaster recovery. Again, on The SynchroNet Way, we manage your backups for you to ensure business continuity. You need to do this for your personal files however.
Keep your anti-malware software fully operational and updated. At SynchroNet, keeping your systems current is our priority and we routinely patch and update systems. Your personal computers and devices need your attention: Most security software will let you know if there is vulnerability or if you need to update, but when we get busy, we may be tempted to put off dealing with the issue until a more convenient time. Make updating your personal security software a "do-it-now" priority. If you feel that your business computer/device needs attention, please put in a ticket so that we can address your concerns.
Cut the connection! If you suddenly see your computer running a program that you didn't expect, disconnect from the Internet and from the rest of your network IMMEDIATELY. You might be able to prevent the criminals from taking control of your computer or at least limit the infection to that one network component. Then call your IT experts for assistance. (For SynchroNet customers, that means us!)
Ransomware is something to take seriously... if your smartphone is infected, for instance, the next time you put in your credit card information for a legitimate purchase, that information will be hijacked and dozens (or more!) charges will appear almost instantaneously [trust us; been there, done that, got the fraud-alert call from the bank...]. It's important to install an AV/Firewall application on your personal devices as a first line of defense and then keep that app up to date.
If you want to learn more about ransomware--or any other kind of malware that may put your business at risk--we at SynchroNet are always happy to answer your questions. We can advise you how to keep your network and data protected from harm, and we offer a variety of security strategies and solutions.