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How To Avoid a Ransomware Attack

How To Avoid a Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attacks have been a hot topic for many business owners over this past year—as the number of employees working from home has increased, so too has the occurrence and severity of these attacks. 

Without getting too technical, a ransomware attack typically involves the insertion of malware into a device that is designed to either corrupt, delete or steal data until a ransom for its restoration is paid. 

As a leading firm in Sydney’s cybersecurity space, we have seen firsthand the increase of ransomware attacks—with some studies indicating Australia alone experiencing a 25% ransomware increase in 2021. What’s worse is that among the most affected are crucial industry sectors like health service providers, finance and legal services.

To avoid becoming a target, your business should take the necessary steps to upgrade overall cybersecurity. Luckily, we’re here to help. The team at Essential IT has put together some of the most effective things you can do today to mitigate your exposure to ransomware attacks. 

Let’s break it down quickly. 

A Good Defence is Your Best Offence

Ransomware’s biggest strength is its ability to quickly infiltrate, encrypt and corrupt your data. This entails targeting and bypassing traditional security technologies that most businesses utilise—emails, attachments and any communication apps or programs that the company’s employees use regularly. 

Having strong encryption for all files, educating employees on security awareness, constantly updating your software and adding new layers of security are the most important things you can do to prevent most attacks from happening in the first place. But, that’s easier said than done, so let’s look into these things in a bit more detail. 

Out With the Old, In With the New

Step one. Update your hardware. Aside from using incredibly old software or never updating your systems, the team at Essential IT feel that hardware is often the most overlooked culprit in any ransomware attack. One of the most well-known ransomware attacks in history came with the WannaCry virus—a ransomware cryptoworm that targeted the national health service in the UK. 

Part of the reason why it was so successful was that the operating systems were attached to old machines that no longer supported any updates. This made it incredibly easy to not only hack the system but also stay inside. Making sure your machines are up-to-date is therefore equally as important as their actual systems being up-to-date.

Look to DNS Filters

Most employees and business executives are usually unaware of ransomware attacks before it’s too late. One of the ways they can infiltrate your business operations is through a virus disguised as business software or applications. This is where finding the right web filtering solutions is critical and where DNS filters can come in handy. 

In layman’s terms, DNS filters are programs designed to aggressively block any unknown application, add-on, ads, files or software. By utilising advanced AI technology, DNS filters are able to identify websites using suspicious programming such as deepfakes, which can help prevent you from interacting with illegitimate websites. If you’ve ever been emailed links with fake login scripts to programs like Microsoft 365, you may have been exposed to a form of ransomware attack. Often, these fake scripts are expertly crafted and their legitimacy can be very difficult to prove from the naked eye. This is where DNS filters are highly efficient, as they will block these sites from ever loading on your computer in the first place. This is vital when it comes to protecting you from accidentally offloading sensitive information to criminals on the dark web. Our team at Essential IT have years of experience helping our clients identify the right high-quality DNS filters for their businesses.

Backup, Backup, Backup

Another thing businesses often forget to do is backup their data. As IT professionals we cannot stress enough how important this is to do. The best way to protect your organisation is to always have a plan B—which could be as simple as having another location to save your files. This is an excellent way to stop the spread of a ransomware attack. Having multiple locations to store your data instantly reduces the leverage potential hackers may have over you. After all, they can’t ransom you for data that you have access to. 

This is something most companies already do, but it’s nevertheless highly recommended you find and use the best storage areas, additional local disks, and/or multiple cloud services. This way you can prevent worse-case scenarios from happening, ensuring that your backup data is always safe in the event of environmental disasters or advanced cyberattacks. 

Never Underestimate Proper Training

The call is coming from inside the house. This rings true in b-grade horror movies and unfortunately many ransomware attacks. It is an undeniable fact that employees often represent the biggest security risk to your company. Not out of foul play or ill-intent, just because we are all humans that make mistakes. Not only do one out of three everyday users not use passwords on their devices, but almost half of all employees believe that opening an unknown attachment is not cause for concern. Furthermore, this report shows that most employees regularly open attachments disguised as invoices or receipts and that 25% of them use the same cloud services at work and at home. 

Properly training employees can prove a challenge, given the somewhat technical complexity that can be involved with ransomware attacks and the behaviour necessary to stop them. However, it should be any business owners priority to train technologically illiterate employees—as an investment in this corner of their education will pay dividends when ransomware attack occurrences plummet. 

The Bottom Line

Avoiding a ransomware attack requires a lot of time, commitment and resources. No one-and-done solution can instantly upgrade your systems, train your employees, buy you new hardware and improve security mechanisms for any sensitive files. That’s why being aware of the different kinds of threats ransomware attacks can present is how you can begin protecting your business.

Call us now on 1300 277 477 or e-mail us at info@essentialit.com.au and see how we can help your business.

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