It seems like you can’t go online these days without hearing about a new security breach or ransomware sweeping the country. And it’s not surprising. According to leading cybersecurity experts, 2019 saw a 74% increase in the number of reported ransomware attacks. This security “epidemic” is affecting businesses of all sizes and industries, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
So, what exactly is ransomware?
At its basics, ransomware is a type of malicious cyberattack that gains access to your computer or network, encrypts your data, and then holds it for “ransom” in exchange for a decryption key.
What makes ransomware so difficult is that each new “strain” targets your network and data differently. These cyberattacks continue to grow in scale, maturity, and complexity. So to help you both prevent and control a possible ransomware attack, we’re sharing best practices for keeping yourself protected and steps to take if the worst happens.
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If you even suspect a virus or ransomware attack, disconnect your computer from your network and internet immediately. This will help to contain the threat and will prevent the malware from spreading to other devices in your environment.
Your first step will be to remove the malicious software from your system. This is often relatively simple since the nature of a ransomware attack is to target your data, not your device.
That brings us to your data. Ransomware uses advanced cryptography to hold your data “hostage,” rendering it unusable. The good news? If you are regularly performing network back-ups, you’ll be able to restore your system will little loss of data – often just a day or two. The bad news? If you do not have a current or complete back-up to restore, it won’t be so easy.
Should you pay the ransom to get your data back? While we typically do not recommend paying for your encrypted data, this is not a simple yes or no answer. Even law enforcement agencies have changed their tune in recent years on this topic. The interesting trend in ransomware is that some of these cybercriminals almost operate like a merchant. Some even have reviews proving that they delivered the decryption key after payment and tout their customer service!
This question is really becoming more case-by-case. A lot of it boils down to the quality of your back-ups and the impact of lost data. It’s important to “check your ego” in these situations and ask yourself the following questions.
Just like in poker, it’s good to “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.”
So how do you get your data back if you don’t pay up? Your best bet is to look for remediation help. Experienced security engineers will be able to recover your system and patch the network vulnerability that allowed for the cyberattack in the first place. When looking for an IT service provider, look for experience in system patches, endpoint protection, email and firewall security, as well as disaster recovery. There are a number of IT service providers out there. Be sure to do your homework; ask for their stats and client referrals.