Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past couple of days, you probably can’t have missed the news story that the NHS and several other organisations worldwide were crippled by type of cyber-attack known as ransomware. So, what is it and how can you avoid YOUR business being paralysed by such an attack?
Ransomware such as the one which hit the NHS is a type of malicious software which encrypts all the files on your computer making them unreadable. The only way to unlock the encryption is to pay a fee (or ransom!) to the software developer to make the files readable again. This type of software can cripple a business, especially if like most businesses, everything such as accounts, orders, emails and other documents are held on your computer’s hard drive.
So what can you do to prevent it?
Here’s our top tips for protecting your computers from attacks:
- NEVER open an email or click on link that you dont know who its from
Usually these types of malicious software get into your computer via an email as an attachment or clicking on a link in an email which takes you to a bogus website. Once clicked, the software is installed on your computer and it gets to work – not only encrypting your files, but also seeking out other computers on your network and installing itself on those too. Very quickly you can find your entire company’s data is locked and unreadable. So first and foremost NEVER click on an attachment or a link in an email if you dont know who its from. A lot of emails disguise themselves as official-looking ones, however emails from the HMRC, a bank or building society, etc are pretty much 100% bogus and should never be opened. You’d be surprised at how many people just click on attachments in emails without giving them a second thought!
2. Keep your computers up to date
Microsoft has stated that the latest attack on the NHS computers was fixed by a Microsoft update which was released a few weeks earlier. Many malicious attacks take advantage of vunerabilities in the operating system of your computer. The manufacturers usually fix these by bringing out regular updates to their software. Its important that you update your computer regularly, whether it be Microsoft, Apple or someone else, these updates are released to ensure your computer is secure at all times. So check for operating system updates at least every 1 or 2 weeks just in case.
3. Dont run old obsolete computers
Its staggering to believe, but many organisations, especially the NHS, are running on Microsoft Windows XP. This software was first released in 2001 and was officially retired by Microsoft several years ago. In fact its been impossible to buy a computer running windows XP for at least 7 years! When an old version of Windows (or even OSX if you are a Mac user) is retired, then the software updates which are meant to protect against malicious code are no longer released, meaning your computer is no longer up to date. The older a computer is, the less it is up to date, meaning the more vunerable it is to malicous software! Your company should have a IT policy in place which allows for the scheduled replacement of old computers for new ones. Most computers have a life of 3-5 years and you should always try to keep your computers up to date, running the latest operating system. For PCs this is Windows 10, for Macs it’s OSX Sierra.
4. Make sure you have adequete Anti-virus software
This is another aspect which is often forgotten about by many business owners. You should always have up to date antivirus software on your computers to ensure that nothing can infect them. However, its often the case that people forget to update their antivirus software licence, rendering it disabled and useless, or they forget to ensure that the antivirus software they are running is kept up to date. Just like your operating system, if you dont keep your antivirus software up to date, then any new viruses or malicious software which comes out may not be recognised and blocked. Mac users, dont think you are invincible either – many Mac users think by running a mac they wont get a virus, this is simply untrue, Macs can be infected too!
5. You must ALWAYS have a back up of your data
If all else fails and you are infected, then the best thing to do is to restore your data from a backup. Many business owners don’t have a robust backup policy in place and this can lead to problems if they lose the data on their computers. Online backup software is generally the best way to backup your data these days – your data is stored in a secure data centre off-site and it solves the issue of someone forgetting to do the backup, or putting the tape or drive in so that it starts running! Online backups usually backup your computers at a set scheduled time, and its done automatically without any staff intervention. Once you have your backups, if you are hit by ransomware which locks out all your files, you can at least be safe in the knowledge that your valuable company data is recoverable!
6. If you think your business might be affected then we can help!
Finally, if the worst has happened, or you think you might be infected or vunerable to an infection then we can help! Our company can help you implement all the points mentioned above and protect your company from viruses and attacks from malicious software. Just give us a call on 0161 755 0066, or email email@example.com, we are here to help!