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No one can escape the news of WannaCry. The IT industry has been covering this type of malware for years, but never has one campaign spread so far or infected so many computers. Read on to gain a greater understanding of what happened and how to prepare yourself for the inevitable copy cats.
Ransomware is a specific type of malware program that either encrypts or steals valuable data and threatens to erase it or release it publicly unless a ransom is paid. We’ve been writing about this terrifying threat for years, but the true genesis of ransomware dates all the way back to 1989.
This form of digital extortion has enjoyed peaks and troughs in popularity since then, but never has it been as dangerous as it is now. In 2015, the FBI reported a huge spike in the popularity of ransomware, and healthcare providers became common targets because of the private and time-sensitive nature of their hosted data.
The trend got even worse, and by the end of 2016 ransomware had become a $1 billion-a-year industry.
The WannaCry ransomware
Although the vast majority of ransomware programs rely on convincing users to click compromised links in emails, the WannaCry version seems to have spread via more technical security gaps. It’s still too early to be sure, but the security experts at Malwarebytes Labs believe that the reports of WannaCry being transmitted through phishing emails is simply a matter of confusion. Thousands of other ransomware versions are spread through spam email every day and distinguishing them can be difficult.
By combining a Windows vulnerability recently leaked from the National Security Agency’s cyber arsenal and some simple programming to hunt down servers that interact with public networks, WannaCry spread itself further than any malware campaign has in the last 15 years.
Despite infecting more than 200,000 computers in at least 150 countries, the cyberattackers have only made a fraction of what you would expect. Victims must pay the ransom in Bitcoins, a totally untraceable currency traded online. Inherent to the Bitcoin platform is a public ledger, meaning anyone can see that WannaCry’s coffers have collected a measly 1% of its victims payments.
How to protect yourself for what comes next
Part of the reason this ransomware failed to scare users into paying up is because it was so poorly made. Within a day of its release, the self-propagating portion of its programming was brought to a halt by an individual unsure of why it included a 42-character URL that led to an unregistered domain. Once he registered the web address for himself, WannaCry stopped spreading.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the thousands that were already infected. And it definitely doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore what cybersecurity experts are saying, “This is only the beginning.” WannaCry was so poorly written, it’s amazing it made it as far as it did. And considering it would’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars if it was created by more capable programmers, your organization needs to prepare for the next global cyberattack.
Every single day it should be your goal to complete the following:
- Thorough reviews of reports from basic perimeter security solutions. Antivirus software, hardware firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems log hundreds of amateur attempts on your network security every day; critical vulnerabilities can be gleaned from these documents.
- Check for updates and security patches for every single piece of software in your office, from accounting apps to operating systems. Computers with the latest updates from Microsoft were totally safe from WannaCry, which should be motivation to never again click “Remind me later.”
- Social engineering and phishing may not have been factors this time around, but training employees to recognize suspicious links is a surefire strategy for avoiding the thousands of other malware strains that threaten your business.
Revisiting these strategies every single day may seem a bit much, but we’ve been in the industry long enough to know that it takes only one mistake to bring your operations to a halt. For daily monitoring and support, plus industry-leading cybersecurity advice, call us today.
Both businesses and individuals across dozens of countries are scrambling to fix their computer systems after a ransomware, named WannaCry, caused major disruptions earlier this month. Like most ransomware, WannaCry encrypts files and demands a Bitcoin payment for their release. What’s worse, more WannaCry variants will likely be developed in the near future, according to security researchers. Fortunately, there are some common strategies you can use to mitigate the damage of the ransomware.
Update your softwareThe first (and probably best) defense against WannaCry ransomware is to update your operating system. New research from Kaspersky shows that machines running Windows XP, 7 and outdated Windows 10 versions were affected by the ransomware. To check whether your systems are up to date, open your Windows search bar, look for Windows Update, click Check for Updates, and install any major updates.
Also, don’t forget to download the latest security patches for your business applications and security software.
Run security programsMany antivirus programs now have mechanisms for detecting and blocking WannaCry malware; so when you’ve fully updated your security software, run a full system scan.
Keep in mind that antivirus isn’t a foolproof security solution. Instead, run it alongside other security applications like intrusion prevention systems and firewalls.
Use data backup and recovery toolsIf WannaCry does infect your computers, only a solid data backup and recovery solution can save your business. Before ransomware strikes, periodically back up your files in both an external hard drive and a cloud-based backup service.
External hard drives will serve as your local backup solution for quick recovery times. However, we recommend keeping the external drive disconnected when it’s not being used and plugging it in only when you need to back up files at the end of the day. This is because when ransomware infects a computer, it will usually look to encrypt local backup drives as well.
Cloud-based backups, on the other hand, allow you to store files in remote data centers and access them from any internet-enabled device. When selecting a cloud services provider, make sure they provide the appropriate cloud protections to your files. For example, your backup vendor should provide reporting tools to keep track of any anomalies in your files. Document versioning features are also important. This allows you to recover older versions of a document in case the current version is encrypted.
After your local and cloud backups are set up, perform regular tests to ensure your disaster recovery plan works.
Stay informedFinally, it’s important to stay on guard at all times. WannaCry is just one of many ransomware strains affecting businesses today, and in order to stay safe you need to be constantly up to date on the latest cybersecurity- and business continuity-related news.
For more ransomware prevention tips and services, call us today. We’ll make sure hackers don’t hold your business hostage.
As the technology that recognizes and thwarts malware becomes more advanced, hackers are finding it much easier to trick overly trusting humans to do their dirty work for them. Known as social engineering, it’s a dangerous trend that is becoming increasingly prevalent. Read on to educate yourself on how to avoid the most recent scam and those that came before it.
Broadly defined, “phishing” is any form of fraud in which an attacker tries to learn information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a reputable entity or person in email, IM or other communication channels.
These messages prey on users who click links, images and buttons without thoroughly investigating where they lead to. Sometimes the scam is as simple as an image with a government emblem on it that links to a website containing malware. Just hovering your mouse over the image would be enough to see through it. But some phishing schemes are far more difficult to recognize.
The Google Defender scam
Recently, an email spread to millions of Gmail accounts that almost perfectly imitated a message from Google. The text read:
“Our security system detected several unexpected sign-in attempts on your account. To improve your account safety use our new official application “Google Defender”.
Below that was a button to “Install Google Defender”. What made this scheme so hard to detect is that the button actually links to a totally legitimate site…within Google’s own framework. When third-party app developers create Gmail integrations, Google directs users to an in-house security page that essentially says, “By clicking this you are giving Google Defender access to your entire inbox. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Even to wary users, the original message looks like it came from Google. And the link took them to a legitimate Google security page — anyone could have fallen for it. The Gmail team immediately began assuring users that they were aware of the scam and working on eradicating it and any potential copycats.
There’s no happy ending to this story. Although vendors and cybersecurity experts were able to respond to the crisis on the same day it was released, millions of accounts were still affected. The best way to prepare your business is with thorough employee training and disaster recovery plans that are prepared to respond to a breach. To find out how we can protect your business, call today.
Good things come to those who wait, and this is especially true for small- and medium-sized businesses that plan on creating an eCommerce website. According to Vistaprint’s study on 1,800 consumers, 42 percent of respondents are “very unlikely” to buy from unprofessional or ugly websites. Go through your site and ensure everything is in order. These key indicators might help:
A variety of clean photosAlways take photos under professional lighting to really get the best images of your products. When customers are browsing, it’s normal for them to want to see as much detail as possible, so try to include as many photos, from as many angles your prospects might want.
Clear descriptionsThe last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. That’s why it’s important to include all of your products’ technical information and dimensions before creating simple and straightforward product descriptions.
Establish policiesReturns and refunds are an inevitable part of online shopping. In fact, a large percentage of online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on how streamlined the returns policy is. Make sure to establish clear policies for returning and refunding items that are easy to find for customers.
About pageCustomers unfamiliar with your brand need a story they can relate to on your website. In your About Us page, include information on who you are and what you do that sets you apart from the competition. Whatever you write, make it accessible from any page on your site.
NavigationFix broken links, make navigation straightforward, and remove outdated pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if your site doesn’t make it easy to find what they’re looking for, game over.
DesignNot everyone is a web design expert, luckily you can always hire one. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. Or with a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can hire a managed website provider.
With more revenue originating online, small- and medium-sized-business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional eCommerce website. Prior to going live, it’s essential to go through your entire site and resolve any mistakes before consumers see them. For further information on completing eCommerce websites, feel free to call us today!