It’s an average morning. You arrive at the office; on time as usual. You settle into your comfy office chair with your morning coffee and bring your computer to life. As you take a sip, you glance over your coffee mug and realize there is an odd image on the screen. You lower the mug to reveal a full-screen graphic of a skull and crossbones overlayed with a message. You’ve seen a lot of pirate movies and know they are never the heroes.
The message is demanding payment to regain access to your data. The pirates have even included an email address for your convenience so making that payment is as easy as possible. How thoughtful. You try another computer and another, realizing quickly that you are a victim of a specific cyber attack, Ransomware.
What is Ransomware?
The basic concept of ransomware is quite simple – to lock and encrypt your computer data and then demand a ransom of hundreds to thousands of dollars to restore access. There are several procedures that your company should have in place to protect your data from threats like ransomware. Even with these procedures in place, there is a chance that your data could be held hostage. If or when this happens, paying the ransom could work but may open you up to further cyber-attacks. Read how all online methods of running the city of Baltimore came to a screeching halt when their servers were successfully attacked.
What do I do now?
In a best-case scenario, you have been backing up your data every 2-4 hours as is recommended and are able to restore your most recent back-up and only lose a couple of hours of your day.
If you don’t have that life-saving back-up, you are left with a couple of options, none of which are ideal. The first is to pay the ransom, hoping the attacker will actually release your data. This works quite frequently, but because you made the payment, they usually come after you again.
Another option is to trust a company you found on the internet that claims they can get your data back. These firms that promise high-tech Ransomware solutions after you have been compromised almost always just pay the hackers. This article from ProPublica found that MonsterCloud and ProvenData were just paying the ransoms and passing along a huge markup after claiming to use their own recovery methods.
ProPublica also raises the question, – are we indirectly funding terrorism?
“At a press conference last November, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had indicted two Iranian men on fraud charges for allegedly developing the strain and orchestrating the extortion. Many SamSam targets were “public agencies with missions that involve saving lives,” and the attackers impaired their ability to “provide health care to sick and injured people,” Rosenstein said. The hackers “knew that shutting down those computer systems could cause significant harm to innocent victims.” Read more.
The third and least attractive option is to re-build your files from bits and pieces of old back-ups, thumb drives, files on other computers, and even printed documents. This is incredibly time-consuming and your chances of recovering absolutely everything are slim. Time is money and this means putting your business on hold.
There has to be a better way
Don’t worry, there is a better way to deal with the threat of hackers and Ransomware. Preventative maintenance is the best maintenance. The city of Baltimore could have been protected from Ransomware had they not been using old hardware and old software, for example. By following some basic principles of network security and maintaining consistent backups of your files – recommended every 2-4 hours, you can be the best-case-scenario mentioned above.
If you don’t already have cybersecurity policies in place, we are here to help. Download our Business IT Checklist for an easy way to evaluate your IT infrastructure. We will help you mitigate threats to your infrastructure.
We don’t mind fighting pirates, but we’d rather build protection around you to keep them out in the first place.
Contact us for a free consultation.