Ransomware – Know Your Enemy

Ransomware is on everyone’s mind, and for a good reason – it’s difficult to combat and can cause significant business interruption. One case in point is the recent cyberattack that shut down the operations of JBS, the world’s biggest meat supplier, in June. The FBI said REvil was behind the massive cyberattack resulting in an 11 million dollar ransom payout to mitigate any unforeseen issues related to the attack and ensure no data was exfiltrated. With cyberattacks on the rise, it’s essential to understand what ransomware is and how to prevent it best.

What Is Ransomware Exactly?

Ransomware is malicious software with one aim in mind: to extort money from its victims. It’s one of the most prolific criminal business models in existence today, mostly thanks to the multimillion-dollar ransoms criminals demand from individuals and corporations. These demands are very simple: pay the ransom, or have your operations severely compromised or shut down completely.

Very often, the first an organization knows of an attack is when they receive an on-screen notification informing them that data on their network has been encrypted and will be inaccessible until the ransom has been paid. Only on payment will they be given the decryption key to access their data. Failure to pay could result in the key being destroyed, rendering the data inaccessible forever.

Security Vulnerabilities – What to Look Out For

Cybercriminals who infiltrate a network by taking advantage of outdated hardware and software weaknesses could potentially gain access to sensitive information. Below are several factors to look out for:

  • Using devices that are no longer state-of-the-art
  • Using devices that have outdated software
  • Browsers and/or operating systems that are no longer patched
  • No proper backup plan exists

Prevent Future Attacks

It’s easy to overlook the genuine threats from cyber attacks. Even the most basic steps to avoid them can seem like too much work, but they are crucial to avoid becoming a victim. Think of it as “cyber hygiene.” You take steps in your day-to-day life to keep viruses out of your body; here are some steps you can take to keep them out of your computer.

  • Never download email attachments from unknown senders or sources. If you’re unsure, call the person who sent it and verify that it came from them.
  • Don’t click links from unknown sources – either in email or on the Internet. Pop-up Ads, banners, and flashing memes are notorious for having malicious content.
  • Know how to spot a fraud. Banks and legitimate financial/medical services will never email you to ask for your password or personal information. If you’re not sure, call the company directly and ask for their policy on this.
  • Stay vigilant! If you notice your computer is acting funny or things don’t seem right, contact IT. If it’s running unusually slow or new programs start opening up, you might have a problem.
  • Restart your computer every day. This allows your IT Department to install software patches and anti-virus updates to thwart these attacks from ever happening. For your home computer, make sure you are keeping up with available patches and anti-virus updates.
  • If possible, encrypt your emails and use only secure Internet sites. 
  • Back up your files regularly. Use an external hard drive or cloud service to back up important files. Ransomware locks you out of your files, but you can diminish the threat if you have a backup.
  • Many sites masquerade as legitimate but could cause harm to your computer. If you get a message telling you that a site is not secure and asks if you want to “get back to safety,” listen to it.
  • Change your passwords regularly. It may be a hassle to remember a dozen different 26-character passwords, but it makes a big difference. Make your passwords easy to remember by using your favorite movie quotes and replacing random letters with numbers or special characters.

As with other forms of malware, careful action and the use of excellent security software executed by a trusted MSP are a step in the right direction when it comes to combatting ransomware. If you have any questions or would like to discuss our services, you can contact Entre Technology Services.


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