Monthly Archives: March 2017

World Backup Day

Today is World Backup Day. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s only important to back up your data today. World Backup Day is a reminder that you need to be backing up your important data (and since you took the time to create it, it’s all important data!) every day.

If you’re not already backing up, consider Mozy by Dell, the most trusted name in cloud data protection. Mozy enables “data completeness” for enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses, and consumers. What do we mean by data completeness? Cloud-based service plans that include award-winning backup, personal file sync, and mobile access. It also means peace of mind that your information is securely and privately protected from disaster, including lost or stolen laptops, hard drive failure, user error, or malware—including ransomware—and always available to you.

Thanks to our friends at Clutch for creating today’s infographic.

Take a Multi-layered Approach to Ransomware Protection

Note: This is blog 4 of 4 in our ransomware series.

You already know your business should take steps to minimize the risk of a ransomware attack. But do you know how to implement multi-layered protection effectively? In January 2017, cybersecurity experts discovered a new type of ransomware called Spora. Now more than ever, it’s imperative business owners know their protection options.

Ransomware protection options

Decreasing your vulnerability is your most reliable option for ransomware protection. Here are a few ways to do that:

   •     Educate employees
   •     Implement employee monitoring          software
   •     Protect with endpoint technology
   •     Back up with the cloud

How these tools work

Spora, the latest ransomware rendition, is distributed as an email attachment disguised as an invoice. Once it is opened it must be unzipped. It then attacks the computer and sends a fake “unreadable file” error message to the user. So, what can be done? Consider the following four areas of action:

Employee accountability plays a major role, because visiting unauthorized sites and suspicious emails is detrimental. Implement a training program where employees will learn how to identify phishing emails and links.

Employee monitoring software connects all company devices on a single interface. Teramind, for instance, is software that lets employers monitor employee computer use and even implement rules and restrictions in real time. You can prevent employees from checking personal emails and visiting unsecured sites.

Endpoint cybersecurity is network protection for corporate-level businesses and servers. An endpoint program can block access between workstations across your network. New features, such as full-disc encryption and data leak prevention are added frequently. When many devices connect on one network, one infected device can put all the others at risk. Endpoint security decreases the chances of ransomware infecting other devices on the network.

Cloud backup is simple, affordable, and can be highly effective against ransomware; any files your company backs up on the cloud are copied over to a remote, independent server with a whole arsenal of cybersecurity protocols. 

If ransomware infects your device

If a computer is infected with ransomware, you have options. If you have a cloud backup, wipe and reinstall your OS on that computer. Afterward, you can recover all your files from your cloud service.

If you don’t have a cloud backup in place, a collection of companies exist to help you remove the ransomware for a fee. If you have an IT team or are tech savvy, you may attempt a recovery and removal yourself, though the process differs depending on your OS. Keep in mind, Windows machines are targeted more often than Mac or Linux operating systems.

Don’t ignore the very real, very risky dangers of ransomware. A multi-layered security approach trains employees, monitors them, scans files and emails using deep learning and endpoint network security and backs up data. Of course, the hope is you’ll never need to use your cloud backup, but it’s more crucial to have backups now than in any other time in history.

If you don’t have your backup set on a weekly schedule, now’s the time to change that.

Say no to ransomware disasters

Don’t fall victim to ransomware! Make sure your cybersecurity is truly multi-layered. Check out how Mozy by Dell can help your business confidently say no to ransomware disasters.

In addition, the following documents discuss how to protect your important data from ransomware:

   •     Ransomware: Frequently Asked Questions

   •     Preventing a Ransomware Disaster

Ransomware Prevention for Small Business Owners

Note: This is blog 3 of 4 in our ransomware series.

Cyberattacks pose a serious concern. Just as technology is in flux, so too is the way hackers gain access and scam unprotected businesses and private citizens. Ransom payouts make ransomware a popular alternative to hackers trying to drain a business account before it’s closed out. Small businesses can prevent a ransomware disaster.

Identify ransomware

To prevent ransomware, first know how to identify it. The three most common types of ransomware are scareware, screen lockers and encryption ransomware.

Scareware floods a computer or network system with pop-up windows that inform users the system has been infected with malware and the only way these malware programs can be removed is by paying a fee. This is a scare tactic—hence the name—and a simple scan from your antivirus should collect this scareware and quarantine it for deletion.

Screen lockers lock out users from the computer or network. When you boot up a computer with a screen lock on it, what seems like an official message from the FBI or Department of Justice will appear and demand payment for illegal activities detected on your network. Neither of the actual departments will ever ask for payment. The network and computers infected with this screen lock need to be completely reset, which means all data will be lost if it’s not backed up.

Encryption ransomware is when a hacker gains access to a network or computer and steals and encrypts these files. The hacker demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key.

Educate employees to keep phishers out

Phishers typically gain access through email. Though it seems like this would be easily preventable, victims abound, including large companies. In 2016 hackers conned technology powerhouse Seagate and social media pillar Snapchat. A hacker posed as the CEO and asked for employee payroll data.

Humans are always the weakest link in phisher scams, so companies must teach employees what phisher emails look like, how they reproduce the look of official emails, and why no employee should ever click an email link when asked to update information on an official site.

While education can lower the risk, it doesn’t make companies immune to a hack. Mickler & Associates, Inc. uses Mozy’s backup services to restore and protect company data. Mickler used Mozy to recover a fully compromised system in a matter of hours. While preventive measures for ransomware decrease risk, they can never completely eliminate the threat.

Take preventive measures

Preventive measures for ransomware include employee education, antivirus programs and firewalls. Retroactive tools are available too, though are less effective than preventing in the first place.

Since email is the most common way ransomware infects a device, sender identification technology like Sender Policy Framework lets the recipient of emails easily approve and authorize specific domains and emails. An email will be flagged when an unauthorized email is delivered.

People are also scammed with ransomware via pop-up windows. Hackers ask for personal information in ways disguised as ads and error notices. Cut out this danger with a reliable pop-up blocker. Back up your files every day with a cloud backup service.

Develop a proactive plan for when you’re faced with having to take retroactive action in the case of a breach. Your plan should spell out how you’ll purge all the infected devices and restore your data from your cloud storage. While it’s a hassle, as long as you have a regular backup schedule, no important files will be lost.

Part 4 in our series, Take a Multi-layered Approach to Ransomware, will be published next Thursday.

For more information about protecting your data, read the white paper, Preventing a Ransomware Disaster.

Spora and the Future of Ransomware

Note: This is blog 2 of 4 in our ransomware series.

The first article in this series, “What Is Ransomware?” took a look at this latest form of cyberattack that the FBI is warning could cost victims more than $1 billion this year.

Ransomware, already a serious problem, worsened with Spora. A highly sophisticated form of Russian ransomware—Spora—released in January 2017 and within weeks spread from former Soviet republics to the rest of the world. Here’s a look at Spora, why it’s considered such a threat, and who’s at risk from this new form of cyberattack.

What is Spora?

Named from the Russian word for “spore,” Spora is a new family of ransomware that typically spreads through email spam. It arrives in the form of an email resembling an invoice. The email includes a ZIP file attachment with an executable file containing an HTA extension. The extension appears as a double extension such as PDF.HTA or DOC.HTA. For users with file extensions hidden, this makes the attachment look like a normal file.

Clicking on the file extracts a Javascript file named close.js to the user’s %Temp% folder. The folder then extracts an executable file to the same folder and runs it. The executable file uses a randomly generated name and begins to encrypt certain file types on the affected device. The file also extracts and runs a corrupted DOCX file, which displays an error message, tricking users into thinking the file has been damaged during the email process. Spora does this offline, so it doesn’t alert the user with any detectable network traffic.

After finishing encryption, Spora runs a CLI command to delete shadow volume copies, which are normally used to help restore files. It also disables Windows Startup Repair and changes the BootStatusPolicy settings, both normally used for the file recovery process.

When finished, Spora places a .KEY file on the user’s desktop and in other folders and displays a ransom note. To decrypt their files, the user must go to Spora’s online payment portal. On the payment portal site, the user must first enter their infection ID code to log in. They must then upload their .KEY file to synchronize their device with Spora’s site. Victims can choose from a number of ransom options with different price points, ranging from a freeware option to restore two files for free to a full restore, which is the most expensive option.

Fees are scaled based on the types of files the device contains, so that the attacker can charge more for computers containing business files or design files. Payments are accepted only in bitcoin. A chat box allows the visitor to send up to five messages requesting technical assistance. After paying, the victim receives a decrypter they can use to unlock their files.

The threat posed by Spora

Spora is more sophisticated than previous ransomware. Its use of a hidden file extension to infiltrate the user’s system, along with its online operation make it harder to detect. It uses a top-notch encryption program. Its payment portal is more advanced than any experts have seen so far, indicating the level of sophistication of today’s top cybercriminals. Finally, Spora is now being distributed through exploit kits and spam campaign tracking ID options, indicating that its creators are renting it out as ransomware-as-a-service to other criminals—a disturbing sign of an emerging trend.

Who is especially at risk?

The most at-risk users are those who are careless about opening emails and email attachments from suspicious senders. Users also expose themselves to greater risk if they don’t stay current on the latest versions of their operating systems, applications, security patches and antivirus updates. Users who don’t back up their files are also at risk.

Spora represents a new level of threat as far as its attack entry method, encryption strength and payment portal. The release of Spora raises the need for ransomware security to a new level of urgency.

Look for part 3 in our ransomware series, Ransomware Prevention for Small Business Owners, next Tuesday. Until then, check out how Mozy by Dell can help you prevent a ransomware disaster. In addition, the following documents discuss how to protect your important data from ransomware:

   •     Ransomware: Frequently Asked Questions

   •     Preventing a Ransomware Disaster

What is ransomware?

Note: This is blog 1 of 4 in our ransomware series.

As 2017 began, the St. Louis public library system found itself the latest victim of ransomware, which is shaping up to be the new dominant form of cybertheft. The attack froze the computer system for all 17 of the city’s library branches, shutting down patrons’ ability to borrow or return books unless the city paid $35,000 in bitcoin for the system to be restored. Fortunately, the library system’s IT staff was able to rebuild their system from backup files and avoid paying the ransom, but many ransomware victims aren’t so fortunate.

The FBI estimates that ransomware cost victims $1 billion last year, up from $24 million in 2015, and warns that attacks are expected to continue escalating. Here is what you need to know about ransomware, why it’s dangerous, and what can make you vulnerable to becoming a victim of this virulent form of cybercrime.

Trickery that leads to a malicious download

Ransomware is a form of cyberattack that holds the victim’s device “hostage” by blocking access to the device, operating system, applications or files unless the victim pays money to have it unblocked. Some attacks threaten to post the user’s files online unless money is paid.

Alternately, some forms of ransomware do not actually lock the user’s device, but only display a message purporting to be from an authority such as a government agency, claiming that device will be locked unless the user pays a fine.

Ransomware typically works by tricking the user into clicking on a link in an email or on an infected website. Clicking the link downloads a malicious code onto the user’s device.

In more sophisticated ransomware, the code contains encryption instructions that use a random key to encrypt the device’s data. The device owner then cannot access their data without obtaining the key from the attacker.

Most attackers require money to be paid through an electronic medium such as bitcoin. The average amount demanded in 2016 was $679, but some attacks on businesses demand thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. However, paying does not necessarily guarantee the attacker will unlock the device. In some cases, paying simply opens the victim up to additional extortion.

Why is ransomware dangerous?

While early types of ransomware could usually be reversed through simple means, such as a reboot or system restore, newer forms use encryption, making them much harder to counter. And where older forms of ransomware could be avoided by not clicking on suspicious emarils or websites, newer versions can hide themselves in infected code on legitimate websites.

Ransomware is also infecting targets that affect more people and cause more damage. Some attacks have been aimed at hospitals, banks, utility companies, government agencies and police departments.

Finally, the success of ransomware attacks has attracted more thieves and emboldened them. Seventy percent of businesses infected with ransomware have paid the ransom, making this is a lucrative racket. Thieves are now demanding more from victims, with the average amount extorted expected to pass $1,000 soon.

Who is especially susceptible to ransomware?

Anyone connected to the Internet is a potential victim of ransomware, but some users are more vulnerable. Users who don’t keep their software versions, security patches, and antivirus software updated are more susceptible to vulnerabilities that ransomware can exploit. Users who don’t take precautions before clicking on spam email links or attachments or suspicious websites expose themselves to a higher risk of ransomware.

Users who don’t back up their files are also more vulnerable to ransomware because they don’t have a way to recover without paying ransom. Finally, having macros enabled in programs such as Word and Excel can leave you vulnerable to ransomware, which is increasingly being delivered through macros.

Ransomware is a growing threat that can potentially infect anyone connected to the Internet. It can cost victims hundreds or thousands of dollars. Users who don’t follow sound security and file backup practices are especially vulnerable. Ransomware typically invades devices through links in spam emails and code on fake websites, but it can also hide on legitimate sites.

Recent forms of ransomware are increasingly sophisticated and dangerous, as we’ll see in the next article in this series: Spora and the Future of Ransomware. Look for it on Thursday.

Until then, learn how backing up your data with Mozy by Dell can help prevent a ransomware disaster in your future.

You Can Successfully Combat Ransomware

What do you know about ransomware?

You probably know that ransomware is a form of malware that can block access to a computer system. Only after the ransom is paid—usually in the form of Bitcoin—is a decryption key handed over to the victim, at which point the victim can theoretically unlock and access his files (though there is no guarantee that this will always be the case; after all, we are dealing with criminals).

Would you like to know more?

Ransomware is prevalent. There are literally hundreds of millions of ransomware variants. Ransomware is also extremely successful (for criminals!); estimates put the cost to businesses and individuals at $1 billion in 2016. The growing sophistication of malware in general and ransomware in particular means that no cybersecurity plan should be thought of as foolproof or a guarantee that data is safe and untouchable by cybercriminals. The odds are high that if your business has not yet experienced a ransomware attack it will—and sooner rather than later.

Because ransomware is so wide spread and profitable, businesses must do all within their power to protect their data in order to avoid a ransomware disaster, which cannot only cripple a business, but even put it out of business should decryption fail and mission-critical data be lost forever.

What can be done?

As part of a business continuity plan, the FBI recommends protecting your organization from cyberattacks—including ransomware—by being proactive in following these three steps:

  1. Back up data regularly.
  2. Verify the integrity of those backups regularly.
  3. Secure your backups.

That’s where the cloud plays an important role in protecting your organization from a ransomware disaster. Where ransomware is involved, restoration of an endpoint or server from a backup works best when you can easily select a moment in time from where to restore. Mozy by Dell keeps up to one year of file versions, meaning if you have identified the point of infection and the time the malware was introduced to the machine, Mozy can restore all of the files for the given user from the point in time just before the malware was introduced.

We’re here for you

We here at Mozy are serious about protecting your data and educating businesses of all sizes about threats to data. We’re putting the screws to ransomware! We know malware isn’t going away; however, we also know that there are tried and true methods to prevent a ransomware disaster that you can include in your business continuity plan.

To help you understand more about this form of malware and, more importantly, to help you know what you can do to protect your data, we’ve created a four-part blog series about ransomware. The first in our series will be published next week. (Update: Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 have now been published.)

The more you know about ransomware and other threats to your business-critical data, the more you will understand that you don’t have to be a victim. With the right tools and preventive measures in place (including Mozy cloud backup), you can successfully combat ransomware as this consultant does on a daily basis.

In the meantime, be sure to check out these important assets about protecting your business against ransomware:

   •     Ransomware: Frequently Asked Questions

   •     Preventing a Ransomware Disaster

Mozy Wins Another Stevie Award!

Mark Goetz (left), Senior Manager, Mozy Business Systems, and Zan Phillips, Director of Mozy Technical Support, accept 2017 Stevie Award on behalf of Mozy’s world-class support team.

The results are in and Mozy by Dell was awarded a bronze 2017 Stevie Award for our submission on “Mapping the Customer Journey.”

Over the last few years Mozy has been conducting research on our customer’s journey. From that research we have implemented numerous updates and enhancements to improve the support experience.

At Mozy, we’re always looking for ways to make sure the customer experience is seamless, pro-active, and beneficial to our users.

You might recall that Mozy has received other Stevie Awards over the years. Read more about them here:

   •     2015, Silver Stevie Award, Best Use of Technology in          Customer Service for Computer Software and Services

   •     2014, Bronze Stevie Award, Sales and Customer Service

Congratulations to Mozy’s world-class support team!