Ransomware attacks: how you can protect yourself

May 17th, 2017

Cyber Security; Cyber Attacks; Data Breach; Hacking; Ransomware – phrases that are better known than ever before.  Even if you don’t work in IT you can’t fail to have noticed the rise in media reports about organisations getting ‘hacked’ and losing customer data. Recently, big names in the media targeted for attacks include Wonga, Talk Talk, Three Mobile and Debenhams.  Hackers don’t just target big names, often their malicious software is ‘phishing’ for any vulnerable computer and this is, in the main, a home PC or laptop.

In fact, ‘smaller’ IT users are more vulnerable to attack as often, less robust systems are in place for protection.  Sole traders and SMEs are less likely to have the time, spare cash or the expertise to invest in IT security.

What should you do?

safe against ransomware

It’s time to take stock of your IT security and ensure your systems and data are safe and there are relatively simple and cost effective processes you can fast put into place to secure your IT.  Some of the best suggestions are below:

  • Use latest software: as well as the obvious efficiencies you will gain, latest software is better supported by the vendors and security problems are addressed faster
  • Install security software: virus protection for your hardware – occasionally you can find it for free!
  • Regularly install updates: most operating systems and software need to be updated and it’s important to do this regularly for full protection against ever-evolving malware and ransomware – consider updating old operating systems to a later version
  • Keep passwords secure and change them regularly: an oldie but goodie – a fundamental basic! Don’t use the same password on all sites – mix them up!
  • Train staff in cyber security – this is an important one and often overlooked. Ensure your staff know company processes and what they should and shouldn’t do
  • If you have data you can’t do without, back it up! Your back-ups should be stored off your computer and off your networks. Do a weekly back up to a drive that can be disconnected.


What about Wannacry ransomware?

The latest security breach happened only last week and was well reported in the media.  ‘Wannacry’ was a ‘ransomware’ (essentially holding your systems to financial ransom) attack that spread across the world and crippled many companies, most notably the NHS in the UK.  Wannacry was not particularly sophisticated nor did it specifically target the NHS or large organisations.  The malware was simply an infected Microsoft Word file, sent via email, which targeted vulnerabilities in Windows.  Most people are happy to open a word document sent via email, especially if it is sent by a trusted contact.  Once opened, the document infected contact/address books and hey presto – the virus went viral!  The fallout from Wannacry for the NHS is massive.  Apart from patients that were negatively affected by the breach there are considerable financial implications for an already cash-strapped organisation.

So how would a data breach affect your business? Would it close down your IT systems? Would it cost you money? Would it compromise your customers? Would it ruin your reputation? Would your business close?

We’d be interested to hear from you if you have any cyber-security stories to tell but in the meant-time, make a promise to yourself to implement some IT security processes and then…..take action!