Ransomware is a big problem for small businesses all over the world. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data on a hard drive, usually user data like documents, contacts, photos, emails, and financial records. It then holds this data hostage, demanding a large ransom in return for this data to be restored and returned to its original owner.
While ransomware used to remain a theory, in recent years it has gone from being a topic of security experts’ imaginations to a reality. Millions of computers have become infected with this nasty form of malware, and antivirus software has made anti-ransomware measures a regular part of their features.
Small businesses need to have clear security protocols in place to protect their information systems from ransomware. SMB owners and managers can take the following steps to help prevent ransomware from taking over their networks and systems:
- Use the most advanced security software protection measures available. These software systems will implement a combination of anti-virus, advanced firewall with unified threat management, spam filtering, encryption, and two-factor authentication.
- System backups need to be implemented both locally and remotely. This data also needs to be encrypted while being transferred and while being stored. Remote backups ensure small businesses will still have access to most of their data even if ransomware takes local data and local data backups hostage.
- Ransomware often targets operating systems that are no longer supported by the authors or that hasn’t been updated. Small businesses need to make sure they are using regularly updated operating systems that are still supported by the authors to have the most effective protection available.
- Even with the most up to date operating systems, there may be security issues ransomware can exploit to find its way into a small business’s’ network. Security patches should also be regularly applied as soon as they are made available.
- The best firewalls protect systems by blocking emails that may carry attachments with copies of ransomware inside them.
- If ransomware does infect your system and the ransom is too high to be paid, your only recourse is to restore from backup. If the ransomware encrypted your local backup, you will have to restore from a remote backup.
- Some ransomware exploits a Windows XP vulnerability that became public knowledge after the NSA tools were posted online. Since Microsoft quit creating security patches for XP in 2014, this vulnerability was never patched. This is why it is so important to upgrade your operating system if it is no longer supported by the author.
- More recent versions of Windows have security patches published that fix the vulnerability. They have to be downloaded and installed after installing the operating systems to work, though. This is why it is important to keep your operating system updated and patched.
User training is also vital in preventing ransomware from overtaking a small businesses’ network and systems. Make sure employees know safety steps for accepting attachments, downloading files, and browsing the internet. It may also be necessary to eliminate personal use of business networks and systems for social networks, email, and other non-work related tasks. This along with regular testing of employees to ensure they retain the knowledge taught is the final step needed to reduce a small business’s’ risk of being taken down by ransomware.