Ransomware - What Is It & Am I At Risk?

In 2021, headlines have been filled with more and more large-scale hacker attacks. Among these attacks are big name events like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hack, causing most of southeast America to experience a debilitating gas shortage. In a slowly recovering almost post-pandemic world, US infrastructure systems are being heavily targeted by ransomware hackers especially. Since the dawn of the internet, vulnerabilities and weaknesses in software, hardware, and networks have been the source of great interest to hackers, at unbelievable expense to their victims. Solarwinds is another recent large-scale hacker attack in the headlines that has raised a lot of concern the IT world. These examples are a concern not only for the large companies themselves, but also for the small businesses that do business with them.
For a long time, the biggest concern for cyber security was accidently downloading a virus, or pesky malware. Today, ransomware has taken the front seat, and it’s become the latest and greatest cyberattack method. Not only do you have the potentially disastrous consequences of being locked out of your most important files and systems, and losing everything, you also have to decide if you’re willing to pay cold, hard cash to get access to them again, if you even get access after paying at all. Ransomware attacks mean the bad guys take control of your systems and lock you out. These attacks often target doctors’ offices, medical software, high income businesses, and more which leads to HIPAA violations, and leaking of important personal data, payment information and other devastating results. Once ransomware has found a gateway into a network or system, it can spread like wildfire before there’s even a chance of preventing it. Most small businesses don’t consider high grade security systems until it’s already too late. Early on, ransomware was mostly an issue for home networks and users, and hackers would acquire personal data to blackmail and demand ransom for release. As it became more common, small businesses became more at risk, and today we hear about stories like Target, Wal-Mart, and more. The threat is very real no matter who you are, so how do you protect against it?
Hackers now use a variety of social engineering techniques—such as spoofing an email that looks like it’s an urgent missive from your boss, to try and get you to install something you shouldn’t or to download files you think are attachments but aren’t. The majority of these are foreign, mostly Russian hackers. They an be easy to spot if you know what to look for. Use extreme caution when receiving emails or even text messages from addresses that you’re not familiar with. False threats are common in these as well. Unlike traditional malware and spyware, ransomware doesn’t have to be downloaded from an outside source to be effective, it can also be implemented by seeking out and taking advantage of aging software that hasn’t been patched and exploiting security loopholes that haven’t yet been discovered. Cheap, off brand security software can lead to these kinds of vulnerabilities, and it is always recommended to have a high-quality security system for networks, systems, servers, and on-site locations. Technology Resource Group specializes in providing services, security software and systems, and managed service providers that can offer top-notch security.
As a rule of thumb for any business large or small, there are three main categories that you can stay on top of to ensure system safety. Update, protect, and back up. All malware, including ransomware, often exploits older or unpatched software, which is why it’s vital that everything running on your computer (and yes, that includes both Windows and macOS users) is up to date with at least the latest security updates. Those annoying Microsoft system updates are annoying for a reason—it’s important that you get them installed. The easiest way to deal with ransomware and other cyber attacks is to prevent them from ever occurring in the first place. While Windows and MacOS have built-in firewalls, and security, it’s not to be taken as a full-scale security software. Third-party security software is recommended, to ensure the utmost protection available for the price range you can work with is in place. Some examples of security software that we and our providers use are Fortinet, McAfee, and Norton.
Medical offices especially are recommended to have a professional team for IT support, network and security management, and device management, like an MSP (Managed Service Provider). Some businesses rely on in-house technicians for these responsibilities, while most have a professional company to meet these needs, ensuring HIPAA compliance, and top-notch security implementation. Two-factor authentication is another feature that is recommended to be used wherever applicable. Another simple, yet crucial way to stay protected against the effects of a ransomware attack is to ensure all systems and files are backed up to an external location, so if an attack occurs, information can be restored without total loss, or fulfilling the ransom. An MSP can provide these services on a weekly or even daily basis for larger, faster paced businesses that could be massively damaged by such an attack. This ensures minimal loss.
Cyber attacks will always be a never-ending battle in this day and age, when everything is connected somehow! With these tips, and a hard-working group of information technology experts like Technology Resource Group, you can be comfortable and confident that your data, and your business are as safe as possible. If you’re interested a network security inspection, or needing a security and network management provider, get in touch with a member of our team today.