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 cyber security 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 cyber security. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 cyber attacks.
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.
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.
“Essential IT have been an amazing support partner to our company where IT is not one of our strong points. They are extremely knowledgeable and great at explaining things in layman terms. Always on the lookout to ensure we are up to date with IT infrastructure and continuing to suggest ways to improve. The helpdesk responds in a fast manner and our issues are resolved promptly. I am confident we will have a long standing relationship with Essential IT”
“Essential IT have been a great support for our business over the last few years. Being too small for fund an internal IT team, Essential IT have been an affordable solution to our IT needs. They’ve assisted with server upgrades and replacements, cloud backup solutions, as well as remote monitoring of desktops, laptops and servers (on site and virtual). Without their help, I’m not sure where our business would be.”
“Since our early days in 2009 our business has seen substantial change and growth. During this period Essential IT have gone above and beyond in supporting our teams across all states of Australia. Working in a high pressure industry, with fast paced change, it is important that our business has stable and up-to-date technology, and our teams have the support when they need it. Essential IT deliver this every-time, no challenge too small or too big. Their invaluable advice and guidance have seen our organisation transition to new initiatives that have driven greater stability, efficiency, and security throughout all aspects of our business and I would have no hesitation in recommending Essential IT to anyone looking for a quality provider who listens to your needs and delivers what you want.”
“Essential IT are the best team in the market. Quick and efficient service they are always reliable. Their product knowledge and expertise is second to none. We have been dealing with Steve and his team for a long time know & wouldn’t call anyone else to solve our IT problems and provide our IT solutions for the company and personal needs.”
“Recovery Partners have been supported nationally by the team at Essential IT for over 6 years. They offer a full service providing front line help desk services to server provisioning, hardware supply, security and strategic planning. The service is no fuss and consistently exceeds our expectations and delivery is always well inside our agreed service levels”
“Don’s Tiles Australia Pty Ltd have been using the IT Services of Essential IT for 7 years. We find the team at Essential IT extremely knowledgeable, hardworking and professional and they are able to get our IT problems resolved quickly. The small team also allows us to build a personal working relationship with all the staff members and we find them all very pleasant and helpful. I highly recommend Essential IT.”