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May 03, 2016

Three Ways to Avoid a Ransomware Payment

Ransomware—or malware that blocks computer access until  a fee is paid—is one of the biggest cyber security threats facing businesses today.

According to the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has logged about 7,700 complaints about ransomware since 2005, with associated damages estimated at around $57.6 million. This figure includes ransoms paid, resulting costs from handling the attacks and the estimated value of lost data.

Last year alone, there were about 2,500 ransomware cases reported to the (IC3), and victims paid more than $24 million.

Now take our advice: You don’t have to be a victim of ransomware. Here are some preventive measures you can take to help reduce the chances of getting caught in a situation where you have to pay a criminal organization to unlock your computers:

Fortify your network: Understand that ransomware doesn’t have to be downloaded by an end user to enter into a network. It can also creep in through a system vulnerability, such as an outdated or unsupported software version (see our article on QuickTime for Windows). So first you’ll want to identify what programs are installed on your end users’ machines. Then, make sure that each program is up to date with the latest security patches. If a program is no longer supported, remove it.

Educate your employees: It’s also important to inform your employees about the dangers of opening suspicious emails or clicking on harmful links. Many of your end users are most likely in the dark about ransomware, and need to be brought up to speed. Consider hosting a comprehensive cybersecurity course, and testing your employees to ensure they are in compliance with cybersecurity best practices.

Back up your critical information: Of course, accidents happen. Even if you educate your employees and protect your endpoints, ransomware can sneak in. Hackers, after all, are working overtime to try to exploit your system. One of the best things that you can do to stay safe is to back up your data in a secure, hosted offsite location. This way, if you receive a ransomware notification you won’t have to choose between funding a criminal organization and keeping your data; it will be safe and secure on third-party servers.

As Download.com recently suggested, you should also consider using external hard drives that operate independently from your network. While a hacker may be able to weasel into your network, it won’t be possible to enter into an external drive.

Use a gift card: Download.com also suggests another great strategy when dealing with ransomware: If all else fails and your network gets infected, pay the ransom with a prepaid gift card. This way, you won’t have to provide a criminal organization with your debit or credit card information. Keep in mind that you may have to use an international card if the hackers reside outside of the U.S.

So take heart and remember that, while ransomware may seem like an impossible threat, you can take active measures to prevent a costly incident.

Of course, it also helps to have the support of a team of computer experts like Apex Technology Services of New York City and Fairfield County to provide critical cybersecurity support, training and guidance. To learn more about Apex, click here

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