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You may think you have everything covered, but the latest virus protection and even a hefty firewall won’t protect you from a ransomware attack. This sophisticated form of malware seizes control of your network and files by encrypting them. You won’t be able to access your own information and data – unless you pay the hacker a hefty ransom to release them. According to the Department of Homeland Security, ransomware is a risk for every organization and enterprise with a computer network.


How Ransomware Works

In most cases, the malware is delivered via an attachment or email link; once you or an employee clicks on the link, the program begins to download in the background. When it’s in place, the malware encrypts your information. Most encrypt everything in your system, but others lock you out entirely. The ransomware known as Petya locks the victim out of their system entirely; the only thing present on boot-up is a screen directing the victim to a payment site. Another ransomware program, Bart, places your data into a zipped archive; you’ll have to pay a fee to get the password and reaccess your files.

No matter which approach the malware takes, you’ll be locked out of your own information and have to pay a fee to regain access. Hospitals and healthcare facilities, school districts and even large organizations have fallen prey to ransomware and ended up forking over significant amounts of cash and Bitcoin to restore their files. There is no particular size requirement or target industry for victims. You simply need to have data that you’d miss if someone locked you out and the ability to pay to get it back.

Why Victims Fall for It

Malware scammers have become very sophisticated and use natural human curiosity and inattention to gain access to your network. A single credentialed employee could lose a ransomware virus on your entire system, simply by opening an email or visiting a web page.

  • Some types of ransomware, including CryptoLocker, are delivered via email attachment; when the victim attempts to download a promised photo or document, they also get the malware.
  • Other hackers attempt to emulate a legitimate webpage or app to deceive users into providing legitimate login details. Uber, WhatsApp and other apps have been targeted with this method.
  • The Locky ransomware uses a particularly subtle approach; it advises users to enable macros in an attached shipping confirmation document. The recipient’s natural curiosity and the legitimate-looking email convince them to allow the macro, which then delivers the virus.

In many cases, the ransomware simply rides along with downloaded material or mimics a legitimate organization. Employees see the familiar logo and trusted name and let the malware in.

How to Cut Your Ransomware Risk

Increasing employee awareness about ransomware and about emails, links and apps can help prevent data loss caused by ransomware. Since the malware is actually being invited into your system (when the employee clicks on it or is tricked into deliberately opening it), commercial firewalls may not catch it. Ransomware is also constantly evolving as scammers seek to find new ways to deceive victims into allowing access. Employee education and information could help prevent a ransomware attack and protect your business from this particular brand of hacker.

Worried about ransomware and how it could impact your business? Sterling Technology Solutions is the trusted choice when it comes to staying ahead of the latest information technology tips, tricks and news. Contact us at (704) 271-5001 or send us an email at inquiries@sterling-technology.com for more information.

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