How to Stop Ransomware Attacks

Today the official website of the Department of Homeland Security released a document titled “Steps to Safeguard Against Ransomware Attacks”. It was a short article, but lets delve into it a little more deeply.

The recommendations were aimed at state and local governments to build resilience against ransomware. Fortunately, what works for them works for businesses as well! Here are the three steps they recommend:

  1. Back up systems-now (and daily). This is the most critical of the three steps, hence it is number one. It says do it “now”. Its critical the backups are on a separate device, NOT another computer on the network! Ransomware players seek out your backups and attempt to sabotage them before the files are encrypted. Get those backups off-site and protected by another layer of security. Of course once the files are encrypted, the files in the backup are encrypted. Back up every day, multiple times a day is even better. Use a different username and password for the backups. Better yet, pick a backup solution that has ransomware detection and don’t forget TEST THOSE BACKUPS! If you can’t restore successfully, they are worthless. Next Century Technologies provides a backup product that tests backups nightly, has built-in ransomware detection and has its own username and password. Have you checked your backups lately?
  2. Reinforce basic cyber security awareness and education. Most successful ransomware campaigns started with a social engineering attack. Phishing emails, or fake support calls are the most popular. Train  your employees on how to recognize these attacks. Train and re-train. An educational program that offers regular training on the latest attacks is most effective. These guys come up with very creative ways to manipulate people! Next Century Technologies offers programs that can train your employees right from their computers on a regular basis.
  3. Revisit and refine cyber security incident response plans. What is your plan if you are attacked? This one is a little different for non-government agencies. Do you have a trusted IT adviser? Do you have a business continuity plan? If not, we would love to talk to you!

 

 

 

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

Tracy caught the picture of this 6 ft. rat snake hiding in a neighbor’s tree in an idyllic Lexington suburb. Its a reminder of how security is sometimes an illusion.

Why SMBs Fail After a Cyberattack

Malicious cyberattacks are increasing every day around the globe. In fact, cyber-incidents nearly doubled from 82,000 incidents in 2016, to 159,700 in 2017. While the media often depicts large corporations as the primary target for cyberattacks, small business are just as likely – if not more likely to be targeted. An article on CSO looks at why small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) often fall victim to cyberattacks, in many cases leaving them unable to recover.

1.       Unable to afford IT staff

With so many key entry points where a hacker can gain access to an organization’s data, it is critical that a proper IT team is in place. Not only is it important to have an IT team in place to implement the appropriate security measures, but it is also necessary to have IT managing and maintaining daily operations of those security systems, which can be a difficult task.

For a company that allows BYOD and is connected to different cloud services, this means the IT department has to protect 4 main security components; the user identity, the device used, the network they’re connected to and the cloud services they’re using. This normally leads to purchasing at least 4 different security platforms.

While staffing an IT department may not be an issue for large corporations, many SMEs and SMBs simply cannot afford it. In many cases, small businesses may only have one individual responsible for managing their IT, and in most instances, nobody is properly managing their computers and networks.  With inadequate resources, it comes as no surprise that cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and SMBs and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Outsourcing IT to a team of experts helps SMEs and SMBs who do not have the need or the money to hire full-time staff. “Managed Service Providers” provide IT outsourcing that specializes in purchasing hardware/software, installing and maintaining those investments, as well as supporting and protecting them. Next Century Technologies is a Managed Service Provider for both small and medium-sized businesses.

2.       Lack ongoing cybersecurity training

SMEs and SMBs often lack the resources to effectively train their employees on security, which is another reason cybercriminals see them as an easy target. If employees are not provided with proper security training, their poor security habits can provide easy access to a cybercriminal. Not only is initial onboarding training important, but ongoing security training is a must to ensure employees are kept up-to-date on current threats and how to mitigate and/or respond to them.

With many security training programs being expensive and out-of-budget for SMEs and SMBs, their employees often go untrained and unaware of what threats are out there. Not only does the lack of training keep employees in the dark about how to spot a potential threat, but it also leaves them unaware of how to respond if an attack occurs, especially if that attack is malware or ransomware.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of hacked SMEs and SMBs go out of business, because they simply don’t know the way forward.”

Training doesn’t have to take a lot of time and doesn’t require a classroom. Employees can do training right from their desktops or laptops. Contact Next Century Technologies to learn how inexpensive, yet effective, an on-going training program can be. 

3.       The devastating impact of Ransomware

Ransomware has quickly become a preferred method of attack for cybercriminals. In fact, Ransomware was reported as the fasted growing threat in cybersecurity in 2017. Typically, in a ransomware attack, the outcome favors the attacker rather than the victim. While large corporations may have the funds to pay the ransom demanded by a cybercriminal, SMEs and SMBs typically do not. Even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that the files will be returned to the organization or that those files weren’t accessed by the attacker. SMEs and SMBs are often left devastated by these attacks and in many cases, unable to recover.

There is no sure way to avoid Ransomware, but a good business continuity/disaster recovery plan is critical to surviving a Ransomware attack. Ask us how we can help you design a business continuity plan and a backup solution to complement it.

4.     The internet makes a bad reputation difficult to ignore

It is an expectation that organizations who are serving customers will protect their information and keep it safe. When a company drops the ball in keeping their customer’s personal information secure, the customer often feels violated and seeks financial restitution for the incident. Not only does this exposure of information result in potentially steep monetary costs, but also leads to bad press for the organization. In the age of the internet, bad press can permanently damage a company’s reputation, sending current customers looking elsewhere for service and drive potential customers away.

While large corporations may have the funds to hire legal teams to fight for them in court as well as PR teams to help with the bad press, SMEs and SMBs often do not have that option. Not only do SMEs and SMBs often have to deal with bad press on their own, but also find themselves battling monetary costs associated with fines from the breach.

Loss of private data could also lead to massive fines by authorities if HIPAA, CFPB, GDPR, or other regulations were breached in the attack. Such fines could be absorbed by a large company but devastate a smaller organization.”

The future of cybersecurity for SMEs and SMBs

One advantage that SMEs and SMBs have on large corporations is their ability to make change quickly. While large corporations may have a long formal process to go through to implement change, SMEs and SMBs can typically bypass the complexity and act fast.

Next Century Technologies has solutions designed just for SMEs and SMBs that fit their needs when it comes to protecting themselves and training their employees.

 

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.