How to avoid losing your data to Ransomware

By Colin Turnbull, BIC IT Manager

Colin Turnbull

The recent “WannaCry” Ransomware not only hit the headlines by crippling the NHS, but it also hit hundreds of thousands of organisations in over 150 countries.

The “WannaCry” Ransomware uses a flaw in Microsoft software. The flaw was discovered by the National Security Agency in the US, and was leaked to hackers. The flaw enables hackers to encrypt files on Windows computers.

Ransomware is a malicious piece of software that, when on a computer, will encrypt files making them inaccessible unless a payment is made to the hackers. Even then you might not get your files unlocked.

It is common for criminals to ask for a fee between 0.3 and 1 Bitcoins (£400 – 1,375).

Ransomware attacks are indiscriminate, affecting any accessible Windows computer running software that hasn’t been updated with a security patch. Older Windows operating systems such as Windows XP can’t be patched.

How to protect your data

Back up your files
The best protection against Ransomware is to back up all of your data.

You can backup to a local external USB hard drive or to a dedicated backup server.

Be suspicious of emails, websites and apps
The common ways for malicious software to be installed on a victim’s computer is through phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites, and malicious apps and programmes.

You should always exercise caution when opening unsolicited emails or visiting websites you are unfamiliar with. Never download anything that hasn’t been verified by an official store, and read reviews before installing programmes.

Better still, use web and email filtering software that can block phishing emails before they reach your computers and devices, and prevent programme downloads from websites. This software is typically installed between the Internet and your office network, normally as part of your firewall.

Use an antivirus programme
Most antivirus programmes can scan files to see if they might contain Ransomware before downloading them. They can block secret installations from malicious adverts when you’re browsing the web, and look for malware that may already be on a computer or device.

Always install updates
Companies often release software updates to fix vulnerabilities that can be exploited to install Ransomware. It is therefore important that the newest version of software are installed as soon as it is available.

Never pay the ransom
Victims of Ransomware attacks are advised not to pay the ransom as it encourages attackers, and may not result in files being recovered. If you have a back up, you can restore your files from that.

Install a firewall
An Internet firewall will protect your data from Ransomware attacks by blocking the ports it uses. Ports are like ‘doors’ through which different types of data go through. Files are typically accessed through port 445. Make sure port 445 is blocked at your firewall as this is where Ransomware can get in. If you are unsure if this is blocked by your firewall stop what you’re doing and block it now.

For peace of mind contact me to arrange a free security check or to discuss any concerns you have.
 0191 516 6200

Find out more about the BIC’s IT Services here

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