Worms, Viruses and Malware are only some of the threats that the Internet can throw at your network and network users. One of the more recent creations of malicious hackers is something called “ransomware”. The good news is that ransomware is completely avoidable if you and your users are careful. The bad news is that, even as easy as it is to avoid, many business networks are still becoming infected with this nasty attack. Here are the basics of ransomware and some ways to avoid it.

What is Ransomware?

One of the first reports of ransomware was from a program by the name of CryptoLocker. What CryptoLocker did was to install itself to a computer and then use a form of encryption to lock up all of the files on the hard drive. The encryption was locked with an unbreakable key that would be given to the user, provided that they pay the amount the hacker was requesting for the key.

Generally, ransomware is delivered via links in emails. Often, these take the form of shipping information or delivery notices from a shipping company. More sophisticated ransomware as of late has taken the form of drive-by-download attacks on websites that have been compromised. This means that the software can be installed directly to your computer without a pop-up ever even showing.

Start with a Good Backup Plan

The first and most straight-forward way to protect your network is by having a good backup plan in place. If someone on the network gets hit with a particularly nasty malware virus, you can simply restore the most recent backup, and you are up and running.

The most effective version of backup to protect against ransomware is a serialized backup. This keeps older versions of files around so that if a locked file gets backed up, the older unencrypted versions can be restored without any issues.

Make sure your data is securely stored offsite, in the cloud, as well. Offsite data storage including end-to-end encryption means if you find your network under attack, a secure, restorable backup is a few clicks away.

Keep Your Patches Current

The more advanced forms of ransomware are going to take advantages of vulnerabilities in your operating systems and 3rd party applications. Companies that develop these software packages are aware of this and try to plug any holes in the systems that they find. This means that staying current on patches can be a critical piece of the prevention plan.

Lock it Down

Does every user on the network have admin privileges just to “make things easy?” This is a bad policy and a great way to get an infection quickly. Make sure that your network privileges are set up properly, and that you are taking full advantage of the security features on your network. Don’t give access to users who don’t need it.

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