Ransomware is on the rise, targeting both small and large businesses alike across the world.

The huge attack in 2017 on the NHS hit international headlines, highlighting how advanced ransomware attacks have become – bringing huge organisations to a standstill.

More recently, EasyJet suffered a huge data protection breach as hackers accessed thousands of customer details. However, it’s not just large businesses who are impacted.

Ransomware is now the biggest threat to small and medium businesses, causing massive devastation through highly sophisticated hacking and infiltration.

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop an attack once it has started and you can’t prevent it from happening again.

However, there are precautions you can take against it and ways to minimise the damage, which could save you a lot of time and effort in the future.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware such as Cryptolocker is extremely damaging, yet near impossible to catch.

Cryptolocker comes in the form of an attachment which, when opened, will gradually work through all the files on your computer and shared drives and encrypt every single one individually.

This stops you being able to access any of your files as from them on an unknown password will be required.

Attachments are usually sent to generic email addresses for your company such as those beginning with ‘sales@’, ‘info@’ or ’accounts@’. These are more likely to receive attachments normally and, therefore, arouse less suspicion.

Accounts email addresses will receive documents like invoices every day, so external attachments generally raise no alarms.

Once this attachment is opened, however, it gradually corrupts your files.

A few days later, you’ll receive a ransom email offering the password to access your files in exchange for thousands of pounds.

Although a significant amount of money, it is not a scam that asks for millions, so small businesses are often targeted in the hope that they will pay up.

Why is Ransomware So Bad?

As previously mentioned, this kind of ransomware works slowly. Encryption of your files doesn’t happen instantaneously, meaning it can take days for you to notice that something has gone wrong.

Obviously the longer it takes you to realise, the more files you’ll be locked out of.

These kinds of attacks are so sophisticated that it is near impossible to find the original file attachment that caused the damage, so simply deleting the file isn’t really an option for a solution.

As ransomware works on shared files as well as ones stored on your desktop, the attacking software is not contained to a single machine.

It moves across machines and devices potentially affecting your entire operation company wide.

Obviously, the effect of being locked out of all your files is that no work can be done. Business ceases for the time it takes to resolve the issue causing potential revenue losses as well as a huge IT headache.

Many businesses deal with sensitive customer data which is now in the hands of the attackers; a big concern for data protection.

How Can I Stop Ransomware?

Backups, backups and more backups! These should be done at least once every 24 hours.

Make sure you’re backing up your files to external storage so that the Ransomware cannot access these too. You can access your backup files while the original files are locked; avoiding a halt in the workflow.

Once the ransomware file is in, it’s in. It’s near impossible to find and remove. So one of the only ways to return to normal is to restore your backups to before the file was installed.

As ransomware works gradually this can be frustrating as you may need to back up to days or even weeks previously. This means that all the work done in that time will disappear.

Although hugely frustrating, that is a much better option than being locked out for good or starting from scratch!

Prevention is better than the cure. As a business, it is your responsibility to train staff how to handle their emails responsibly.

They should never open an attachment from a sender they’re not familiar with. If in doubt, they can consult the IT team who can scan the file to check if it’s safe or not.

On that subject, make sure you have a strong IT team or outsource to a reputable IT company that deals with the maintenance and security of your systems.

If something goes wrong, they’ll be the ones to fix it for you and it is well worth a little investment to make sure a ransomware or virus attack doesn’t damage your business.

One option that many businesses choose, is to pay the ransom and receive the password to unlock the files. In most cases, the password is provided in exchange for the money but it’s not guaranteed.

This can be seriously damaging to your finances, and if it doesn’t result in the goods, to your business as a whole.

Although these kinds of attacks can seem scary, they can be dealt with efficiently by making sure the right precautions are taken.

Small businesses are, increasingly, a target so remember to backup your files, not open any attachments from senders you do not trust, and invest in good IT support.

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