While increasing threats of cybercriminal activities like phishing, whaling, and smishing are nothing to ignore, there is a more insidious threat known as ransomware, designed to prey on the vulnerable and uninformed. By taking digital hostages that can range from single PCs to entire computer networks on the local, national, or international level, cybercriminals are demanding more and more costly ransoms to release their control. With these strategies to reduce costly ransomware and business hacks, companies can help minimize the impact of ransomware or, ideally, prevent it from infecting your PC in the first place.
It might go without saying for business owners and technologists with more experience, but the importance of using good anti-virus software and ensuring that it is always running the latest software updates cannot be overstated. As one of the strongest potential defenses your business security has at its disposal, anti-virus software and keeping everything updated is crucial due to the ever-evolving nature of ransomware and other threats to your cybersecurity. Even though most reputable anti-virus solutions offer you the ability to set up automatic updates to ensure you always have the latest and greatest protections, you may want to perform a weekly checkup yourself for additional peace of mind.
While your employees certainly have their own opinions about not being able to access certain apps and services during working hours, sharing information about the importance of maintaining awareness is crucial for overall success. It is undoubtedly worth limiting individual employee access to critical data and financial accounts. If you choose not to block people from being able to download files on work devices and accounts, they will need to know what practices to avoid.
One of the most common tactics for ransomware to infect your computer is a pop-up ad or notification requiring you to install, update, or download software. Should you or any of your employees encounter such pop-ups, close it carefully to avoid accidentally opening any links and check with the official website for a given app or service to verify the need for software changes.
Similarly to advising people not to click on random pop-ups absentmindedly, business ransomware can also be downloaded through seemingly legitimate apps from suspicious third-party sources. If you have not disabled your workers' ability to download apps without authorization from your system administrator, you should make them aware that they should only acquire software from official app stores like Steam, Google Play Store, and Microsoft Store.
Since ransomware comes in many forms and can often use the imagery of relevant law enforcement agencies depending on your global location, it can be an extremely frightening experience. Although it may seem tempting just to pay the ransom and regain access to your PC, you should avoid the impulse to do so. Even after paying a ransom to a cybercriminal group, there is a very high probability that your payment will be used for nefarious means like developing more advanced ransomware, and your PC will also be stuffed with "parting gifts" in the form of other malware. Furthermore, you might not even receive the keys to the encryption currently hamstringing your device, leaving you both out of pocket and with a bricked PC.
If you suspect that your PC or network has come under assault from ransomware, one of the first things you should do is immediately disconnect any infected device or devices from the internet to prevent the spread of further contagion. You may also wish to contact the company responsible for your current anti-virus software for any relevant advice and instructions for eliminating the problem, although this may not be possible in all cases. Once ransomware mitigation, rather than ransomware protection, becomes your primary concern, you should consider any information stored on the affected PCs to be effectively lost and compromised.
As alluded to above, there are relatively few solutions available once your company has become compromised by ransomware, so it is best to focus on preventing such incidents from happening at all. While there is currently no completely foolproof means of protecting your business from a constantly adapting and improving threat, common sense can be extremely helpful in the long run. Therefore, in addition to ensuring that your anti-virus protections are as current as possible, you should also regularly check your operating system and any apps you frequently use to check that they are updated to the latest versions.
Anti-virus software provides your PCs with significant protection, but it can only be most effective if all your technology and software is current and can easily communicate. Since software of all kinds is continually being reviewed and updated in response to threats, breaches, and new information, a chink in your digital armor can appear unexpectedly. It would be very unfortunate to have top-quality anti-virus software that could not do its job properly due to not keeping up with an un-updated app.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution or business hack for keeping your business devices and data safe from ransomware, but some knowledge and awareness can go a long way. Check out our other articles on business security to help protect your company, no matter its size.
About Dan Martin: Daniel Martin is a technology researcher and writer with more than a decade of experience. He is a professional librarian and an experienced tech teacher, writer and blogger. Specializing in technology, Dan has taught courses in technology and writing at the college level, developed web pages for businesses and higher educational institutions, written on tech topics for leading national publications and created numerous how-to guides.