Watch Out for Ransomware: Protecting Your Small Business

Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Here's what you need to know about ransomware, plus how you can protect your business from cyber criminals.

Imagine this: you try to pull up a certain file for your company, such as your profit and loss statement from the last quarter.

Instead of seeing the file, however, you may see a message that says "Your computer is compromised. To see the file, you must pay $500 for software to decrypt your data."

This message is called ransomware, and it is a form of malware.

Related Article: Threats to Cybersecurity Increasing: How to Secure Your Network

About Ransomware

So, where does ransomware come from? Hackers use ransomware in a number of ways, and often send the programs via e-mail.

For instance, have you recently clicked a link in an e-mail? Even if it looks legitimate, such as "It's time to update your account. Click here," it can be quite dangerous to your computer and network. These criminals may also pose as law enforcement officials, government agencies or tech companies and may imply that your security software doesn't work or ask you to activate software.

What Do You Do?

Never, ever pay anything when you see a ransomware banner or notification, wipe your disk drive and then restore your data. And your drive was backed up, right?

Preventing Ransomware

Fortunately, preventing ransomware is easy to do with the following steps:

  • Never open an attachment or click on links in e-mail, even if it is from someone you know.
  • Use a browser extension that detects websites that are malicious.
  • Use security software and a firewall.
  • Back up your data every day. Services like Carbonite backup your data redundantly for up to 90 days saving multiple versions of your files. This enables businesses to recover files prior to ransomware setting in.

Ransomware often attacks businesses, and these are usually sophisticated and come from overseas. If your business falls victim to this type of attack, do the following:

  • Make the criminal believe that you will pay, but that you need time to gather the money.
  • Gather all of your correspondence.
  • Contact your web hosting provider, not the police, who may do nothing.
  • If there is an extensive loss, contact the FBI, who also may do nothing.

Dealing With Computer Viruses

A computer virus is a type of file that not only copies itself, it also can spread to other computers. A virus is a malicious program, but often appears safe. Symptoms of a virus include programs or apps that open and close on their own, a slow-running computer and people begin receiving e-mail from you that you did not send.

Related Article: Data Breaches Hurt 43% of Businesses in 2014: Do You Have a Cyber Security Plan?

Protecting Your Business from Viruses

You can protect your business from viruses in a number of ways:

  • Never open any links, attachments or programs that are found in e-mails unless you are expecting it. This includes from people you know, as hackers will often send malicious programs through someone else's e-mail account to their address book.
  • Never use a public Wi-Fi connection unless you are also using virtual private network, or VPN, encryption software.
  • Always keep your virus protection software up to date and use a firewall.
  • Make sure that you are always using the most recent version of your browser and operating system.
  • Set administrative rights on your computers to prevent installations that are not authorized.
  • Train your team on computer and network security, and make sure if they use their own devices, that these are protected just as well.
  • Always back up the data you have on your network. When all else fails, if your data is destroyed by malware, you can access it through your backup. Use both a cloud and on-site backup method.

Though the above information is written with a business in mind, these tips can all apply to home computers and networks, too. Everyone who uses a computer should ideally be trained on how this "bad" software works, and they should be aware of how cyber thieves operate. Only then should you trust that your network is secure.

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