You log into your company’s computer systems one morning and discover that everything is taking a little longer to load than usual. Later, you try to open some files, but they are locked.
That is when the alarm bells go off in your head and you realize that you have fallen victim to ransomware like so many other companies.
What can you do now? We have some valuable tips for individuals and businesses alike.
What is Ransomware?
Simply put, ransomware is a form of malware installed on a computer to encrypt files so that they are unusable by their owner. As the name “ransomware” suggests, the goal of encrypting someone’s files with this malware is to then force a dialogue in which the person or group that installed the malware requests some form of compensation to decrypt the files.
Depending on many factors, the impact of a ransomware attack can range from mildly inconvenient to crippling.
How Do I Know I'm a Victim of Ransomware?
Typically, a computer that is affected by ransomware will exhibit several symptoms such as:
- Slower-than-usual loading times
- The inability to open files
- A lock screen on your computer with instructions to pay a ransom
- Files appear with atypical file extensions
The presence of ransomware is not always noticeable, but most users find out sooner rather than later. Since ransomware hackers want to be paid, they will often ensure their victims cannot ignore or miss the instructions they embed during the attack.
Steps to Take After an Attack
The process of recovering after a ransomware attack is rarely pleasant or easy. This is not a simple virus that infected your computer; your system’s antivirus is not going to help once you are infected.
Start by taking these steps:
- Ignore any hopes you have of paying the ransom and gaining access to your computer systems. Even if you paid, the criminals probably won’t give you access, and they would just come back for more money if you did.
- Disconnect your PC from the internet and any internal networks.
- Break out your backups and start a clean install of your operating system and files.
- Consult your IT team to check for other malware in your system and identify the access point the hackers exploited.
- Review whether you should contact relevant authorities. If you lost money from this ransomware, then you should make the call.
These steps will help you begin to recover from a ransomware attack.
How Can I Prevent Ransomware Attacks?
After you have suffered through a ransomware attack, the chances are good that you will not want to deal with another. You need to be proactive about preventing the next attack. For better or worse, recent high-profile ransomware cases have yielded several methods that individuals and companies can use to prevent ransomware attacks on their systems, including:
- Turn on automatic updates and install patches immediately. Patches are often released in response to software companies recognizing security flaws.
- Arm yourself with knowledge about how ransomware makes its way into systems. Seek outside educators for your business if necessary.
- Create offline backups of your data and follow the 3-2-1 Rule. Check on your backups periodically.
- Be mindful of the software you download and install and never give new software administrative capabilities without knowing with full certainty what the software does.
- Install antiviruses on your PC. These can identify malware in emails and on websites before it penetrates your system.
Preventing ransomware is important to individuals and businesses alike
Ransomware is appearing in the news more frequently than ever. Companies of every size have become victims of these malware attacks. Implement the changes we have suggested here to prepare for and recover from ransomware.
If your business is not capable of implementing these elements, then you should reach out to a third-party security consultant to prepare your systems for the worst.