Post #3 in threat types
Everyone knows that feeling. Being in a relaxed situation and suddenly recognizing betrayal. Whether it’s a personal matter or scammers targeting you, it hurts.
What to do? You see a box on your computer screen saying all your files are encrypted. The instructions demand payment. This is horrifying for a business owner.
Like so many things in life, the best advice seems to be “Break the challenge into small pieces.” So let’s make the topic of ransomware manageable.
What is ransomware?
How to spot the bad guys
Ransomware is software that A) gets inside your computers, and then B) encrypts your files, and C) demands money.
George Cox of Computer Diagnostics and Repair, writing at thespectrum.com, talks about the seriousness of this threat.
“A couple of years ago, the FBI warned that ransomware was the fastest-growing malware threat, targeting users of all types,” he said. “One reason ransomware is so appealing to criminals is how easily it can be spread to victims.”
This blog article is for people who have never faced that screen and want to prevent it. But, we’ll include information at the bottom for folks in an emergency.
Sometimes, the solution is inside the problem. In this case we can already see three preventive solutions:
A) Improving your firewall will stop ransomware from getting inside.
B) Regular backups will let you resume work using the last-known good copy of your files.
C) Advance preparation can limit your stress if things go wrong.
Easy? No. So let’s start with firewall tips. A typical firewall is software that blocks other software. It’s designed to prevent unauthorized access your private digital network. You can deploy a firewall in software or hardware form, or a combination. Firewalls prevent hostile internet users from accessing private networks connected to the internet.
Your starting point
If you have IT staff, ask them to confirm you have a reliable firewall installed. Don’t hesitate to ask about the criteria used to select it. They can also explain how they track its performance. Ask them about “throughput.”
If you are too small to hire professional IT, here are a few tips from Manx Technology Group:
- Gateway antivirus means the firewall scans downloads and e-mails, adding to your existing antivirus on PC/Servers.
- Many firewalls will support ADSL, VDSL, Ethernet and both 4G and 5G. Make sure your firewall is compatible with your internet connection.
- The Intrusion Prevention Service scans traffic and looks at patterns that may show an attack on your network. IPS can identify the pattern and block the attack.
- Virtual Private Networks allow remote access to the workplace from home, mobile or on the road.
- Web Filtering controls what websites your staff can access or not. Besides filtering content, an important feature is blocking access to known “high-risk” websites.
- Wireless/WIFI Support. Seek 802.11AC for top performance. You should be able to secure the wireless network using a Pre-Shared Key, usernames/passwords. The firewall should feature a WIDS (Wireless Intrusion Detection Service)
What about backups?
Create an inventory of your data, with all parties agreeing all important files are present.
Choose a known reliable backup systems. Repeat as needed to have backups by date/time.
Educate your staff (or yourself) to prevent being tricked into allowing entry.
Review and test your procedure and quality of backups created.
Test the system restore capabilities, to be sure this works during a crisis.
Try to make patching and updates impossible to forget. Below are several tips on patch management software that can remind you. If you don’t have a dime, at least post a big note on the wall where you can always see it.
Also, protect this vital step from over-zealous budget cuts! The history of ransomware is littered with examples of penny-pinchers who invited disaster. A 2018 ransomware incident in the City of Atlanta cost an estimated $9.5 million to repair.
There is a wide range of patch management tools to fit any budget. Here are some tips from techtarget.com about choosing software to manage your patching:
- Operating system, platform and application support. The software should include mobile platforms, including smartphones, tablets and other portable computing devices
- Integration with other systems management products. The product should be flexible enough to accommodate your existing setup.
- Find out if the patch management software supports other features, such as physical desktops and servers; cloud-based computing, offering virtual desktops and servers; and how well each vendor supports their customers.
- Performance is often a tradeoff between features, the cost of the software licenses and the cost of the underlying infrastructure required to run the software.
Software patching options from Capterra:
Patch-management software list and links