Ransomware and how you can protect yourself


The worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack which hit the NHS in the UK, car factories in France and gas companies in Spain was another demonstration of just how vulnerable we all are to hackers and the issues they cause.

wannacry ransomware

Nobody knows who was behind the attack but there was no mistaking the intention.  To cripple as many businesses, either high-profile or not, and pressure users into paying a ransom to recover their data.  This weekend’s event was the most widespread ransomware attack yet and more are feared as other cyber criminals jump on the bandwagon.

What happened?

It is estimated the WannaCry attack hit 200,000 computers in 150 countries and it spread like wildfire after the first PC was hit.  The virus locked files and customer information and crippled payment systems.

Spread by infected attachments to emails the virus was effective because it managed to use a security flaw in Windows XP.  The attack was very likely the work of an organised group of cyber-criminals rather than a lone wolf hacker.

hacker with tablet

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a virus which takes the files on a PC and encrypts them, effectively holding them hostage.  The user then has to pay a ‘ransom’ to unlock the files and retrieve their information.

It is easy to see how businesses could quite easily be crippled by this.  In the recent WannaCry attack which hit the NHS and other businesses around the world users were ordered to pay $300, around £230, to gain access to their files.

ransomware cash

Is this a new threat?

Ransomware has been around for some time but this is by far the most high-profile attack.  The fact it spread so quickly and hit so many different countries is as astonishing as it is unsurprising.

But, we are sure to hear much more about ransomware as it is clearly a profitable business.  Hackers can extort thousands of pounds from their victims and once the virus effects one machine it will, as we have seen, quickly spread and ensnare more victims.

So, how do we protect ourselves against ransomware?

Considering we use our PCs for work, shopping and leisure many of us are lax about security and backing up our data.

What can businesses do to protect themselves?

Businesses stand to lose far more than the home user should ransomware gain access to their systems. Intellectual property, sensitive data and financial records are all at risk of encryption and potential deletion.

To counter the threat IT managers and directors should be taking steps to ensure their network is secure and all security software is up to date.

Gateway security should be employed and next-generation firewalls (or UTMs) allow for deep-packet inspection to identify hidden threats passing into your network.  These measures should be combined with internal monitoring and endpoint protection to prevent malicious files from gaining access to the network by human error (uploaded and not over the network gateway).
ransomware checklist

It is essential a reliable and thoroughly tested backup solution be put in place.  This should be segregated from the rest of the network to prevent malware from spreading to it once infected.

Finally, businesses should ensure their systems are up to date and supported for exploit patches.  The reason the recent attacks were so effective is because companies did not update their operating systems.

An up to date Windows 10 environment would not have been vulnerable to this malware and the cost of upgrading from XP/7/8 is insignificant next to the costs to recover from such an attack, not to mention the potential loss of revenue from a damaged public image.

What can home users do to protect themselves?

Home users should ensure that all their devices, including mobile devices are protected by anti-virus software.  A total protection product will cover viruses, ransomware and other online threats and provide Firewall security.

Importantly, always make sure the product you have chosen to protect your devices is up to date with the latest version of the software.

You should also ensure all your files are regularly backed up to either the cloud or external storage so they can be easily recovered.

Why you need to protect yourself and your data

More and more of us are storing important and precious data and information on our PCs.  Wedding albums, family photos, and videos of our child’s first steps are all stored on our hard drives.  This makes us all very vulnerable to ransomware and other viruses.

Businesses have even more reason to protect themselves as they hold personal data on customers not to mention the heavy reliance even the smallest company places on its network and the impact on profitability should they be the victim of a cyber-attack.

Solutions at Ebuyer

The cyber-attacks on the NHS and the resulting fall out has once again brought into focus the importance of security both at home and in the office.

Cybercrime is a growth industry and criminals are becoming more sophisticated and their attacks more destructive.  New threats are constantly being developed and businesses of all sizes, as well as the ordinary home user, are vulnerable to attack and should always be on their guard.

Worried about your business?  Call the Ebuyer Solutions Team

Here at Ebuyer we work with our security partners very closely so we can offer the best advice possible to our customers.  Our Solutions Team includes software and security experts who will be able to help you protect your business from cyber-attacks.

If you have any concerns about network security, or simply want to ensure you have the best system in place to protect your business against ransomware, our Solutions Team are here to help.

Call 01430 433671 or email for more information.

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