Ransomware is a sophisticated piece of malicious software — often called malware — that blocks access to your system or data and then demands a ransom in exchange for regaining access, often paid through Bitcoin, gift cards or wire transfers.
Ransomware works by altering your operating system and locking you out, making it impossible to access files and applications, or by encrypting the data on your computer or system, making it inaccessible.
Typically, cybercriminals deliver their malware via either an email or a compromised website. Once inside your environment, many types of ransomware can spread across the network to other computers causing a much greater detriment to businesses.
A recent example of malware is WannaCry, which reached an estimated 200,000 victims in 150 countries in a matter of hours.
Your malware plan should focus on prevention rather than reaction. As with many cybersecurity issues, the biggest threat with ransomware is the end-user and therefore it’s important for you to remain vigilant — do not click links in emails or download software from people or sites you don’t know.
There are many things we can do to remain protected and mitigate ransomware attacks. It is important to use an anti-virus software from a trusted brand, use a current operating system and keep your software patched and updated. Windows 10, for example, already has Windows Defender Anti-Virus built in and Windows Defender Exploit Guard which includes controlled folder access that halts ransomware by preventing unauthorised access to files.
For businesses, there are a lot of additional cybersecurity solutions that provide real-time protection, threat analytics and machine learning that can prevent ransomware from entering your environment in the first instance and ways in which malicious software can be blocked from delivering its payload and making configuration changes to your system.
The last protection that’s important to have in place is an effective data backup strategy. In the worst-case scenario where your system is affected and your data is lost or inaccessible, it’s important to be able to recover your data.
Ransomware is very lucrative for cybercriminals and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation recently admitted that it is here to stay. Therefore, it’s important to have a robust plan around how you secure and protect your data, whether this is by training staff or improving your cybersecurity and data backup strategies.
Blair S. Lilford is the founder/owner of SALT Technology Group Ltd.