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What is ransomware?

Microtrading Ltd

It seems that almost every day we are hearing news stories about ransomware attacks and how businesses are being crippled by cyber criminals out to make a quick buck at our expense.

In this article, we explain what it is and how it can affect your business. Ransomware is the fastest growing form of cyber attack and businesses of all shapes and sizes are being targeted.

This form of attack can often prevent you from accessing the data your business needs to continue operating, encrypting customer information, finance data and more.

The criminal gangs conducting these attacks are now so organised that in many cases they even have mini-call centres to handle your payments and questions. So, what is ransomware?

Ransomware stops you from using your PC, files or software programs.

The business model is as old as the earliest kidnapping.

They hold your data, software or entire PC hostage until you pay them a ransom to get it back.

What happens is that you suddenly have no access to a program or file and a screen appears announcing that your files have been encrypted and that you need to pay (usually in bitcoins) to get them back.

There may even be a Doomsday-style clock counting down the time you have to pay before you lose everything.

More worryingly, it is now possible to purchase a ransomware-as-a-service campaign which is delivered out-of-the-box and makes it possible for any unscrupulous individual to launch an attack out of their bedroom.

Smaller businesses are often targets of this type of attack as they typically lack the knowledge and security needed to protect themselves. Often the business owner is left with no choice, but to pay the ransom as the damage caused by being out of operation is just too severe.

So, what should you do? Firstly, you should make sure that all of your machines and devices are regularly patched and updated. Software vendors, like Microsoft and Apple, regularly release patches to fix vulnerabilities in their software and make your system safer.

Secondly, ensure you have recognised anti-virus software installed on all of your devices including servers, PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones and that this is updated at least once a day.

Thirdly, make sure all staff are aware of the threat ransomware and other cyber attacks pose to the business, and they are familiar with the steps they can take to avoid being victim to an attack.

Provide them with regular advice and best practice on how to use their computers safely.

Finally, verify that you have working backups of your computer system and regularly perform test recoveries to be confident that your data can be recovered comprehensively and in a timely manner.

If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of a ransomware attack, recovering from your backups may be the only option available to you.

We never advise paying the ransom as this will only encourage the cyber criminals to continue targeting businesses like yours.

For further advice and guidance on how you can protect your business from ransomware give us a call on 0121 784 0077 and speak with one of our experts.