How to protect yourself from ransomware attacks

The Background

Ransomware attacks operate by infecting computer systems with a virus that locks files and operating systems behind, what is essentially unbreakable, encryption, with the perpetrator demanding payment for the files to be unlocked.

Often even after payment the perpetrator will not decrypt the information anyway, or they are using methods where they themselves cannot lift the encryption, meaning payment is almost never a good solution.

There has been a noticeable increase in high-profile cyber-attacks on large corporations in recent months. An attack everyone in Ireland will be familiar with is the May 2021 ransomware attack on the HSE orchestrated by ‘Wizard Spider’, a criminal gang believed to be Russian in origin. In July there was several businesses in the United States targeted by a ransomware attack orchestrated by another Russian group, ‘REvil’. Most recently, computer hardware giant Gigabyte Technology was hit by a similar ransomware attack in early August.

When these large-scale attacks happen, targeting large corporations, they are highly publicised and widely reported in the media, causing an increase in smaller attacks targeting individuals and smaller companies.

Our Advice

Our team of IT experts work with our clients regularly to reduce their risk of cyber attack. The peace of mind these services provide our clients cannot be understated. We do recommend every business gets at minimum a security audit done by a professional, however below are some measures you can take yourself to help you stay protected.

  • Scrutinise your emails, especially ones with links in the body or attachments. Typically dangerous emails are poorly constructed and caught by the spam filter, but we have noticed some surprisingly innocent looking and convincing malicious emails being sent to our clients and ourselves.
  • Avoid giving out personal information, unless you are 100% sure of the source of the communcation. Scammers may collect the information to tailor their communications in future to make them look less suspicious.
  • Regularly update your operating system and software packages. It may be tempting to hit the ‘Update Later’ button forever, but often times these updates contain important security features.
  • Only download from trusted sources. If you are searching for software, make sure you are downloading it from their website, or a download portal they mention on their website.
  • Keep regular backups of your data and sensitive files. If your device ends up infected, there is an incredibly low chance of recovering the files, which is why its important to these regular backups on a seperate storage device or on the cloud.
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