Anthony Hill, Geeks2U’s head of technology, authored the below blog for SmartCompany.
Hackers can’t hold your business data to ransom if you’ve got backup copies tucked away safe and sound.
Rather than stealing your business data, some hackers find it easier and more lucrative to sneak malware onto your computer to encrypt your business data. They then demand money in return for the password so you can unlock your precious business files.
If you can’t afford for this to happen to your business then you can afford to spend the time, effort and money to put safeguards in place.
Ransomware tends to arrive via email, as an infected file attached to an innocent-looking email.
They’re often disguised as notifications of unpaid invoices, unclaimed tax refunds or undelivered parcels – the kinds of mundane emails which businesses receive every day. The hackers are hoping a staff member will open the attachment without giving it a second thought until it’s too late.
How to protect your business
There are several countermeasures you can deploy to reduce the chances of ransomware finding its way onto your business computers.
One is to employ gateway and/or desktop anti-spam to stop these emails reaching your staff, or at least mark them as suspicious, although the fact the emails look so innocent makes them hard to spot. Another is to run gateway and/or desktop anti-virus programs to catch those infected attachments, although hackers tend to stay one step ahead so ransomware can still sneak through.
The next line of defence doesn’t rely on technology, instead it relies on training your people to treat these emails with suspicion.
At the end of the day these attacks rely on tricking a person into opening the attachment, so a little bit of cybersecurity awareness training can go a long way towards stopping ransomware getting a foothold in your business.
Of course people make mistakes, they’re only human. That’s why your last line of defence against cryptolocker ransomware is a reliable backup system, so you can wipe your computer, reinstall everything and get back to work.
Even small businesses can benefit from investing in a business-grade backup system – especially when you consider what that lost data might cost the business in terms of lost productivity and perhaps even lost customers. A reliable backup strategy won’t just protect you against ransomware, it could also save the day in the event of hardware failure, fire, flood, theft or other disaster.
You need to plan your backup strategy with care because, unlike other tech disasters, ransomware goes out of its way to foil your recovery efforts. Once ransomware has encrypted your files it often deletes Shadow Volume copies and Windows System Restore points to make it harder to roll back to before the infection.
Next the ransomware looks for other devices to attack, such as attached USB drives, Network Attached Storage drives and even mapped cloud drives that are accessible from that computer.
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Your backups can’t save you from a ransomware attack if they’re also encrypted. Basic cloud backup/sync services might not protect you either, not if they’re simply going to upload the encrypted files and overwrite your backups.
At the very least you need a backup system that keeps previous versions of your files, so if an encrypted file is backed up you can go back in time to access a previous backup.
Some backup systems let you do this manually, but if you’re dealing with lots of files you might benefit from a batch restore option.
Unlike cloud storage/sync software, dedicated backup software – whether it’s backing up to the cloud or a network drive – tends to contain granular backup and version controls as well as flexible batch restore options that let you roll back to a specific point in time.
The previous versions of your files aren’t stored on easily-accessed mapped network drives where the cryptolocker virus can get to them.
There are plenty of ways to go about this; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every business. The basic rule of thumb is that if you can easily open your backup files from your computer then so can the cryptolocker virus.
If this sounds like your business, it’s time to step up to a business-grade backup system.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.