The Plain English Guide to: Ransomware

Ransomware is emerging as one of the most effective – and destructive – types of malware circulating today. This is what you need to know.

What is ransomware?

At the most basic level it is a malicious application that is designed to stop your computer from working properly until you pay a ransom. In theory, paying the ransom will restore access – but it may also encourage the hackers to try and extort more money.

Without access to your data, operations are significantly disrupted – and that adds even more to the overall cost of the infection. Having lost their mission-critical systems, many organisations pay the ransom in the hope of restoring access quickly. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this strategy will work as expected – the cybercriminals may choose to keep the money and run.

Different types of ransomware

There are four main types of ransomware:

1. Crypto-ransomware that encrypts all of your files. The only way to regain access is using a decryption key which the hacker will provide for a fee.

2. Disk coding ransomware that encrypts critical software and prevents your computer from starting.

3. Screen locker ransomware that prevents you from accessing the screen of your device. In the meantime, hackers have complete control of the infected computer.

4. PIN locker ransomware that changes the PIN code used to unlock your device.

The methods and techniques vary, but they all prevent you from accessing your IT resources.

How to protect against infection

There are two key safeguards against ransomware infections – effective antivirus software and robust backups.

1. Antivirus tools

Ideally you want to stop ransomware from being installed – and antivirus software can assist. These toolkits scan your device and block suspicious activity, such as software installs, until you can check that they are legitimate.

2. Robust backup systems

You should also prepare for what happens after an infection. Ensuring you have a robust, reliable backup is invaluable, allowing you to recover a ‘clean’ copy of your data. You want this process to be as quick as possible to reduce downtime and the cost of the infection.

Do SMEs have to worry?

Large companies and organisations steal all the headlines about ransomware infections – but SMEs are likely to be victims too. A lack of in-house IT knowledge and experience makes SMEs an easier target for infection – and therefore more likely to pay a moderate ransom.

Every business must have safeguards to protect against (and recover from) ransomware attacks. Otherwise, their operations and reputation could be compromised. They may also face significant fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if sensitive personal data is exposed by the breach.

To learn more about ransomware – and how to better protect yourself against it – please give the WTL team a call.

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