Protect Yourself from Ransomware

One of the biggest threats on the internet to companies, big and small, is ransomware. I’ve been around several companies that had laptops, and even servers, fall victim to these attacks.

Essentially ransomware is when a program is installed unknowingly on a computer or network and that program renames, encrypts, or even copies and deletes files. The program then displays a notice to the computer owner that if a ransom is paid the files will be unlocked or restored.

If you think there’s no way YOUR computer or organization will be hit, I got contacted just a few weeks ago by a contractor that is by no means a large company. His computer was held ransom, making it impossible to recover years of bids and accounting information. That information was held for a couple thousand dollars. And Carbonite, a leader in cloud backup, states they get contacted by companies over 5,000 times annually about ransomware attacks!

POST UPDATE (1/10/17) – I just saw an article on a new ransomware package called Koolova that encrypts your data, then decrypts it for free once you read a couple of articles on how to protect yourself from ransomware. Sounds like this is still illegal in many parts of the world, including California, but at least you can get away mostly unscathed.

Recover Your Data

The short answer on how to recover from ransomware… is you probably can’t. There is a very real possibility that your data that is going to be lost forever even if you pay the ransom. And by paying the ransom you are only providing positive reinforcement to the criminals that this is a valid method to extort money from honest, hard working users.

If for some reason you HAVE to pay the ransom, immediately clean and back up your data by hiring someone specializing in that sort of thing, and reinstall your operating system on the infected machine. Training to your employees or family members on proper email handling or internet browsing habits can minimize the possibility of further infections.

But as the video above states, prevention is better than the cure.

Protect Your Data

Of course, the best total protection from data theft or ransomware is the not be on the internet. That’s unrealistic and won’t help you if your computer or storage device malfunctions (for what it’s worth, there’s NOTHING more sad in computing than getting a hard drive failure message from your computer).

If you have data that is very important to you, whether it’s work spreadsheets, photos, tax information, school document or anything else that would be impossible to replace, back it up today… right NOW… take some simple, and compared to paying a ransom, cheap steps to protect your data from ransomware or device failure.

Back Up Your Data

Simply getting your data to a USB drive, external hard drive, or server can save you hours of heartache. In my example above of the small company, the only computer hit was an owner’s machine that was NEVER backed up! Every other computer in the organization was backed up to a server weekly. So the one with all of the critical business information was never saved anywhere but on the local hard drive.

If you have something critical get it backed up right now. You never know when that hard drive will stop spinning.

For what it’s worth, the prevailing wisdom on backups is the 3-2-1 rule… have at least three copies of your data, on two different types of media (USB, external drive, server, cloud, another computer), with one copy offsite.

Use A Cloud Service

Cloud backup and sharing services are everywhere now and in many cases are free or cheap to use. The value of these services can be achieved in several ways including:

  • Having a backup of your files in case of hard drive failure, unwanted deletion, or ransomware.
  • Sharing files with multiple computers or even co-workers, clients or family. You can even share files to your Android or iOS device.
  • Immediate backup of files if saved to a specific folder on your device.

A few of the most popular cloud services are listed below. Most have a free version with more space available for a fee. These solutions fall into two different versions, cloud storage and cloud backup. The storage solutions, like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, allow sharing with multiple devices and people, some with and some without encryption. Carbonite is a cloud backup solution, meaning it will back up virtually an entire computer, not just a specific directory, and encrypt that data.

  • Dropbox – Dropbox is a great, free service for up to 2GB of storage. For less than $10/month you can get up to 1TB of storage, with more
  • OneDrive – Another free service is Microsoft OneDrive.
  • Google Drive – If you have a Gmail account, and almost all of us do, did you know you have up to 15GB of storage free at Google Drive?
  • Carbonite – Probably the most trusted version of cloud backup. Cost starts at $60/year for just one computer, with more available for multiple computers and networks.

Have You Backed Up Yet?

I’ve said this before, but what are you waiting for? Ransomware, malware, viruses and simple hardware failure is a totally real, and inevitable situation. You might even just be considering moving to a new computer or other device. Backing up and protecting your data will ensure the safety and easy recovery of files in case of emergency or simple migration if you buy a shiny new laptop.

Get started with a backup solution today. If you need some help or guidance on the road to protecting your data, contact BeBizzy Consulting and let’s get started.

Then, leave the technical stuff to us.