Don't let the hackers hold you to ransom

Chris Jones
By Chris Jones
recent survey showed that over 50% of businesses in the UK have been hit with a ransomware attack in the last 12 months, with a third of victims reporting lost revenue as a result. 
Don't let the hackers hold you to ransom

Over the last two years, the number of attacks on businesses has doubled to more than 650,000.

Ransomware isn’t new, but its use is certainly becoming more prevalent. Popular US TV series The Good Wife showed recently just how easy it is to fall foul of an attack in a busy work environment, and lines of attack are becoming more and more sophisticated, which makes potential attacks even harder to detect.

What is a ransomware attack?

Ransomware is essentially a virus planted on your server by cyber attackers, which lock you out of your system until you pay a ransom to regain access. They can be difficult to detect, as they will often look like a normal email – often from someone you know - an internet download or PDF. But beware: all it takes is a single click to release a virus onto your network.

Attacks can result in significant data and/or financial loss, being locked out from business critical systems and applications on your network and disruption to your day-to-day business activities – not to mention harm to your company’s reputation.

What can you do to protect your business?

There are several steps you can take to reduce the risk of attack:

Test your network – do you know how secure your network is, and whether you are vulnerable to an attack? If the answer is no, it would be well worth commissioning a network security test. Also known as ‘vulnerability scanning’, this involves a thorough system audit that will give you a complete picture and highlight any potential vulnerabilities on your network.

Get the right protection in place – having the right antivirus and antimalware in place is crucial. Your IT company should regularly and proactively review your antivirus provision to make sure it continues to give you the protection you need.

Keep your systems up to date – a good IT company will proactively undertake regular system checks, reporting back to you on network performance and advising you when updates and upgrades are required. They should also be helping you educate staff so that they can take responsibility for implementing software updates, and know what to download - and what not to (see below). Ask your IT company about patch management software, which can help streamline things so that you can roll out updates and new patches in a few clicks.

Educate your team – make sure your team is aware of the risks, and that they treat unsolicited emails with caution, as well as making sure free software is evaluated to make sure it’s safe before downloading it. Our Good Housekeeping blog gives you more advice in this key area.

Make sure your data is fully and securely backed up – this will reduce the risk of data loss and means that you will always be able to get things back up and running quickly in the event of an attack. An effective backup will automatically back up all files (as often as every 15 minutes if needs be), securely store your data off site, give you regular status reports as well as fast access to restore the systems that have most impact on your day-to-day operations.

Next week’s blog will look at what to do if you find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack. In the meantime, if you you’re concerned about the risk of attack and want to make sure your business is protected, talk to our Commercial Director, Chris Jones, who has 20 years’ experience of helping businesses stay safe online.

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