Ransomware is becoming more frequent, don’t let it catch you off guard. Our publication, Understanding Your Network: Ransomware, will help explain what this virus is and how to best defend your network against it.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is malware that holds the victim’s data ransom by preventing access to the computer by locking the desktop or by encrypting the user’s files where they cannot be read. The malware then displays a ransom note, possibly pretending to be from federal or local law enforcement of some sort.
The ransom note may even claim that the computer was used to look at illegal websites, videos, or images and will try to frighten the victim into paying up by threatening to bring them to court.
As we quickly approach 2016, researchers at Fox IT have successfully identified the “Big 3” Ransomware families, whose members have generated huge income in 2015:
What are the Basic traits of Ransomware?
Although each ransomware variant is unique, they still work in similar ways. There are generic traits seen with these behaviors.
Most ransomware will place payment instruction files in the directory of the files that it’s going to encrypt. These files are usually in the form of a text, image and/or URL. It may even include a popup window notifying the user that his files are being held ransom and require a ransom.
Ransomware will encrypt files on drives that are network mapped on the computer as a side effect. This can affect an entire business that relies on network shares for their data, potentially spreading from one computer, to the server, to all other computers that access that server. Having a proper backup solution in place may be the only solution to protecting your data.
As we find encrypted files on a network share, we can use that to determine which user was initially infected with the ransomware by checking the creator of the instruction files on the share. This tells us which computer to disconnect from the network. The goal is to disconnect the infected user as quickly as possible from the network to prevent any further damage.
So where did the Ransomware come from?
One method for installing ransomware is through certain websites. These may be malicious websites, set up by criminals for the sole purpose of infecting website visitors, or they may be legitimate websites that have been compromised by infected advertisements or links by the criminals and used to spread malware.
Another way ransomware can install on your computer is through the opening of email attachments in SPAM or infected emails. These malicious emails may have what looks like regular files attached, but once you open them, your computer is at risk of becoming infected with malware. You may not even see it happening.
Ransomware on Mobil Devices
Ransomware for mobile devices is becoming more common and now have the ability to lock your smartphone or tablet or even encrypt the files stored on these devices. Criminals have learned that we are more dependent upon our phones and tablets than ever before. In some instances, they are more frequently used than our computers, explaining the increase in “mobile malware”.
Follow these tips to stay protected from ransomware.
- Make sure you have a quality, antivirus program installed on your network, and that it continues to be updated on a regular basis. This also includes installing a reputable security app on your phone and tablets.
- Keep the operating system and all software on your computers & servers up-to-date by installing the latest security patches and updates.
- Consider adding a mail-filtering service that not only protects your email from SPAM, but also adds manageability and virus protection. Some services, such as MailWatch from CMS, will continue to spool your email when your connectivity is down, protecting you from lost emails.
- Avoid downloading software or mobile apps not necessary to your work and only download from trusted sources.
- Most importantly, Backup! For your network, have a data backup solution in place that protects your critical data on your network so that if anything does happen, you have an untainted backup source to retrieve from and restore to your network. And don’t forget to back up your mobile device to a reliable cloud source that you can retrieve from and restore.
Today I want to talk about the importance of using a consistent IT services provider. Every business out there relies on some type of technology to make their business run, whether it is your phone system or your computer network.
At CMS, we work with a variety of customers both large and small. Some customers employ their own IT personnel and simply rely on us as a provider of equipment and backup support, while others depend on us fully for managed services, using us as their “offsite IT department“. Regardless of your size and budget, having a local IT company that you consistently work with is important, and here is why.
Knowledge of your Network!
Working each time with the same company, they will learn your network. They will be better educated on the layout and design of your network, the applications that your employees use and the security policies in place. If you’re not using the same business to resolve your issues, each problem will cost you in additional time to pay for a learning curve.
Elimination of Network Problems Before They Occur
Because there is a familiarity with your business and your network, your IT provider can help you eliminate problems before they occur. They are more capable of seeing a device with declining performance if they are always the ones to work with it. And as we know, fixing a problem is much quicker at the beginning than it is in the end, which can reduce your down time.
The Trust Relationship
Finally, it all comes down to trust. Your IT provider should understand the nature of your business and only have your best interest at heart. Your goal is to run your business as efficiently and effectively as possible, and your IT company should be up to the challenge to make that happen.
Sometimes, it may seem like it is salespeople just trying to make a sell, and we understand that getting your network up to standard can be expensive at first. However, we can say that customers who trust us and make the investment are more productive and suffer less downtime.
We encourage you to find a local IT provider in your area that you trust, check out their reputation with other customers, and build a relationship that will strengthen your business. If you are in the Southeast Texas area and are looking for someone, visit with us and ask us questions. We are always happy to meet new faces.
Passwords are everywhere. From your Windows login to your banking software, to the online store where you purchase your “can’t put down” books from; everyone wants you to log in with your special login.
But how “special” is your login?
It’s simple. We are busy people with lots to do; so to remember long, secure passwords may not be high on our priority list. And if we have to have a different one for every site or device that requires one, then we are really in trouble. After all, we aren’t just speaking of websites, but phone apps, computer logins, email accounts, and well…you understand. The list can be endless.
So how can we make things easier for ourselves and harder for the criminals? Let’s break it down into 5 easy steps.
First, Don’t Share Your Login.
As simple as it sounds, it’s a very common problem. It could be a matter of you giving your login to a best friend, or it could also be a case of 8 employees all logging into a network using the same username and password. Either way, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
Next, Make Your Password Secure
Believe it or not, password is still one of the most commonly used passwords. It actually was the second most common password for 2014, preceded only by 123456 that came in at #1. Others include 12345, qwerty, and letmein. For a complete list, visit gizmodo.com.
Best password practice would recommend that your passwords are 8-12 characters long and include alpha, numeric and special characters. Using both upper and lowercase is also good practice. A perfect example might be: h*3Dxy8vM.
Worried about remembering your password? There are multiple sources available for password keepers. Just always look for one that is secure and from a reputable publisher.
Our Next Recommendation is Locking Your Desktop
This may be the easiest of them all. If you’re walking away from your desk, “Just Lock It”.
In the “good ole days” when security wasn’t an issue, we would leave our desktops unlocked and leave. When we returned, we would have strange replies to emails that were sent from our account. We always knew who the usual suspects were and it was all in fun & humor, but now, leaving your computer available for anyone’s access is just not safe. Information is more critical than ever and customer data is everywhere. It’s our job to protect both our company and our customers.
Let’s Not Use the Same Password for Every Account
If someone steals your only username & password, they could access everything you own. Many of us are guilty of using one login for everything. When you add that to the simplicity of our passwords, we have just done a major portion of the legwork for the criminals. Use different credentials for different sites.
Finally, Don’t Use Your Username as Your Password
Again, this is done as a time-saver and for ease, but you are only making it easy for the password stealers. Your password should be unique, only used as a password and nothing else, and only by you.
Unfortunately, we are in a time where malware and viruses are accessible everywhere as little bots do nothing but infect networks and break passwords all day. And the sad truth is that, for some, creating these infections is a full-time job.
If you are concern about your network or how to determine where your network stands on security, contact a local IT provider, such as CMS IP Technologies in Beaumont and set up an appointment for a no-obligation network evaluation.