By Peter Davidson

If you have not heard of ransomware, it is time to learn about it, because it is threatening small businesses everywhere. This new version of malware literally holds your computer hostage until you pay the ransom or has someone with very sophisticated knowledge of computers, viruses, and malware as well as many hours on their hands try to unlock the computer. Believe it or not, many people end up paying the ransom, no matter its cost in order to have their computer back, while others fight it in other ways.

How Ransomware Works?

The thing which makes any malware “Ransomware” is that it extorts direct payment from the victims. There are different types of Ransomware. Some may function as “scareware”, which displays a pop-up that shows something like “Your computer is infected with a virus, please purchase this product to secure your computer” or “You have downloaded illegal files, you have to pay a fine to continue using your computer.”

Some ransomware may be more upfront. These may go deep into your computer system and display message saying that this will only go away when you pay some money to the creators of ransomware. This malware type can be removed by using malware removal tools or just by reinstalling your operating system.

Now these days, Ransomware is getting more sophisticated. For example, as soon as it enters into computer, it starts encrypting your files; thus, preventing access to the files without knowing the encryption key. After locking up your essential files, it will show you a message that your files are locked; now you have to pay $200 in order to get the encryption key. After paying that amount, they will provide you the key.

It is not a good idea to pay an amount to the cyber criminals to recover your files, but businesses that don’t want to lose their only copy of important data may be tempted to take the risk. So, it is good to prevent your computer from the Ransomware because prevention is always better than cure.

How to prevent computer from Ransomware?

There are many ways that you can prevent this from occurring to your computer in the first place as well as from spreading to other computers in your network.

Train your Employees. This might seem like an odd way to prevent ransomware from taking over your computer, but it really does start with the users in your company. If they are not told about the importance of avoiding phishing scams or determining the validity of emails before clicking on links, they could make your company more vulnerable than you think. Before you let anyone loose on your network, let them know what is okay and not okay to open and click on. As a general rule of thumb – if they were not expecting a specific email, they should not open it without consent from you or someone else with authority. This adds another level of security to your company’s network.

Use Antivirus Programs. Many small businesses are falling prey to a false sense of security. They think if they are vigilant about not opening scam emails and only visit links that they know are valid that they will not be subjected to the risks of viruses, ransomware, or malware. This is not the case, however. Everyone is at risk, which means antivirus programs are vital. This does not mean strictly installing the programs; however, it means keeping them updated on a regular basis. If the program allows, set it up for automatic updates; this ensures that your updates are being completed on a timely basis. Do not get comfortable with that setting; however, you should always do a periodic manual check to ensure that you are up-to-date and your pc protected against the latest threats.

Have a Backup. Not only is a backup important, but an offsite backup is the key to success. If you backup your files at your location and you are hit with ransomware, those files could be held hostage as well. Offsite does not have to mean thousands of dollars – utilize the cloud storage options that are available to you. This gives you the flexibility of having offsite storage while not having to go over your budget. Make sure to regularly back your files up to the cloud and you will have an extra copy of your important documents, should disaster strike.

Utilize Email Security. Check with your email provider to see what type of email security they provide. As a standard, most services offer anti-spam and virus scans for each email. Make sure that these settings are enabled as a first line of defense against ransomware. You can also encrypt your emails so that the information you send over the internet is not vulnerable to theft causing an eventual hack of your computer. In addition, you should enlist two-step verification on your email, which makes it more difficult for your email to be hacked.

Be Careful Off-Site. Today it is very common for employees to work off-site. While this is a great way to keep the flexibility of your company while still having work be done on time, it could put your business at risk. If your employees are utilizing your business’ network while they are out in coffee shops or other public places, utilizing the public Wi-Fi, they could be putting your information at risk. Talk to your employees about the information that is acceptable to be accessing while they are on public Wi-Fi and what should be reserved for when they are on your secure network.

Some tips:

  • Always use good antivirus software and if possible choose the paid one.
  • You should never install or run suspicious files in your computer. This malware can arrive in ‘.exe’ format in your mail, so beware of this file format.
  • Always update your operating system, web browser and browser plug-ins on regular basis

If you do find yourself attacked by ransomware, do not panic. Take your time and have an IT professional look to see what can be done. If you have one of the reputable virus removal programs on your computer that is regularly updated, you will be less prone to this type of attack, but you must still be cognizant about what is going on in your organization. The key is never to get comfortable with your security – always update, and watch the actions of everyone that has access to your network. Ensuring that you have a backup off-site where you can access your file sin the event of someone holding your files ransom will make it much easier to avoid the demands and instead spend the time getting your computers back up and running.

Have you ever been a victim of ransomware? Let us know how it ended up in the comments below.

Being a senior business associate, Peter Davidson strives to help different brands and startups to make efficient business decisions and plan effective business strategies. With years of rich domain expertise, he loves to share his views on the latest technologies and applications through his well-researched content pieces. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter.

Photo courtesy lifars.com