Are You Protected From Big, Bad Ransomware Attacks?

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Oct 27, 2021

Just as Halloween ghosts can enter your house through an open door or window, malicious software can also enter your computer and disable it without your knowledge. Once the malware takes over your computer, like a powerful witch’s curse, you'll be held hostage until you pay.

Ransomware, a kind of malware that takes over ownership of computer and network devices, has quickly become the most dangerous form of malware threatening both organizational and personal data networks. According to ID3, cyber crimes cost U.S. businesses $4.2 billion in victims’ losses in 2020. 

The Uninvited Guest

If you're scared of ghosts haunting your home or witches casting spells over your life, then ransomware might be your biggest Halloween nightmare. Ransomers, or cyberhackers that carry out ransomware attacks, can gain access to a computer or other device several ways, including through downloaded attachments sent as part of email phishing campaigns, or dropped onto vulnerable systems by exploit kits. Once the ransomware is executed, your devices, and all their accompanying data, will typically be held hostage until the ransom demands are met. This can include locking users out, encasing files with encryption that can’t be unlocked, or even making files inaccessible to security measures like anti-virus software. But the horror doesn’t end there...

The Click Strikes Again

One of the most common ways ransomware can infect your system is through what are known as phishing emails. These are messages that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as your bank or email service provider, but do not actually originate from these trusted sources. Phishing, or spoofing, emails are so malicious because they include an attachment that, when opened, will download ransomware onto your system. To protect yourself from phishing attacks, it's best to never open attachments from sources you don’t recognize, unknown sources, or any email that looks suspicious or off. The same rule applies when browsing the web: never click on links contained within advertisements or suggested by search engines unless you are on a secure site from a trusted vendor or service.

The Invisible Man

Another method cyber criminals also use to hack into your computer and steal your personal data is through the use of remote desktop protocol (RDP). RDP is a proprietary network protocol which lets cyber criminals control your computer’s resources and gain access to its data over the internet. They often do this by brute-force methods, meaning that they use trial-and error when testing out user credentials. Some may even purchase credentials through dark web marketplaces. Once these criminals have obtained unauthorized rights via either method mentioned above, they deploy malware directly onto your systems, including potentially threatening ransomware. Should you find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack, please note that the FBI does not encourage individuals to pay any ransom to criminal actors. The FBI’s stance is that paying a ransom may encourage cyber criminals to target other organizations. The FBI highly encourages any individual that has been targeted by a ransomware attack, regardless of the outcome, to report the incident to your local field office or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. This provides investigators the information they need to help prevent future attacks.

Protection From Ransomware Attacks

In the same way that the Final Girl survives the slasher film, there are ways to avoid cyberattacks. And the best way to counter them is to prevent them altogether. Many organizations work with a managed IT partner to ensure that any safeguards put in place are effective in thwarting these especially threatening attacks. One of the most common preventative interventions include what are known as anti-virus programs, which perform regular scans of a system in order to detect any malware or viruses that may have been downloaded. This can be done at set intervals, with most security applications offering what is called a “silent scan.” This program runs in the background all the time without disrupting any activities you’re operating on your computer. Another popular option is sandboxing, which isolates what you're working on into its own separate space. This effectively blocks any potential malicious viruses or malware from infecting other files within the larger system. In this way, the system is protected even if what you're working on or browsing contains malware - if you accidentally download or open ransomware on your computer it will not be able to access the rest of your files. 

Here are a few other tips to protect yourself from ransomware attacks:

  1. Make sure you are educated on best security practices, including, not opening emails from unknown sources, and making certain that antivirus or anti-malware software is always enabled

  2. Update operating systems, antivirus and anti-malware software regularly

  3. Disable macros in Microsoft Office documents

  4. Block .exe files from running in AppData or LocalAppData folders

  5. Build a next-generation firewall

  6. Frequently back up your data offsite, keep many different versions of your files, storing several days’ or weeks’ worth of files and regularly testing the restored versions of these files

Enjoy the treats of cybersecurity this Halloween without the tricks

As Cybersecurity Awareness month comes to a close on Halloween, it’s important to not take ransomware and other cyber security issues lightly. Unlike the spooky tales of Halloween, the curse of ransomware doesn’t disappear when the sun rises. As cyber criminals have become bolder, and their methods of attacking your networks, devices and systems have become more elaborate, it is now even more crucial to hire someone you trust to ensure your system is safe from any outside attacks. Milner offers complete data security services that protect your network and stops criminals from accessing your private information. Our certified engineers are trained to safeguard your data by making sure your current protection measures are up-to-date. Milner has 30 years of experience protecting clients from the worst threats to personal and company data and information. Reach out to us to protect yourself from data and monetary loss today.

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