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.