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Posted by Harry Ray
on May 19 2017

Ransomware: How to stay safe

Our guest author and Ransomware specialist Llamara Swann shares some valuable tips for staying safe.

‘Warning! The data on this computer have been encrypted: files, photos, videos, etc. You have 48 hours to send £5000 to receive the encryption key, otherwise your files will be permanently destroyed.’

You’ve been hit by a ransomware attack. Scary, right? Knowing all your hard-work could be gone, just like that. Step up your cyber-security and prevent this scenario from happening.

The Ransomware War

The ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attacks are not the kind of attacks that a 14-year old boy commits at home on his low-tech computer, or a forensic student stumbles upon when he’s being exploratory – this is an attack that expert cyber-criminals have committed, some speculate these attacks originate from North Korea, but nobody is certain.

The first WannaCry ransomware attack started on 12th May 2017, within days this attack had spread like wild fire and had infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries. This was a global attack. Some of the worst hit countries like: Russia, England, Ukraine and India are the countries with some of the best cyber-defence. Also, a few major organisations found themselves under attack too, such as: Britain’s NHS, FedEx and LATAM Airlines.

For those of you that are unaware of ransomware, ransomware attacks are brutal. If you are attacked by ransomware, depending on how big your organisation is, you could end up waving goodbye to your financial stability, your reputation and your “secure” network. Cyber-criminals effectively hack your computer, take your files ransom and demand money. There is no way of getting around this; you either pay up or you lose your files.

What does this mean? We need to get our cyber butts into gear and defend against the cyber-criminals!

How to stay safe

When it comes to ransomware attacks, there’s a few things you can do to protect your network. Ensure your organisations has:

– Up-to-date anti-virus protection
– Regular back-ups (very important to save files in 3 various places so you can maintain your files elsewhere if you are attacked)

However, the main thing you can do to protect yourselves from a ransomware attack, is to make sure your staff are well trained. Raising awareness about these attacks are fundamental, as the more you know, the more you can help yourselves.

In a recent study, it was shown that only 36% of candidates (employees in the computing field) knew what ransomware was. This is the problem. One of the most common ways ransomware is spread is by social engineering. Exercise common sense. If it seems suspicious, it probably is.

Teach your employees not to open suspicious emails. Teach your employees not to plug in a random USB stick they found outside. Teach your employees to stay away from suspicious websites.

Basically, keep an eye out for suspicious things. If your organisation is attacked, ring the police straight away. Ransomware attacks are evil and can leave you with nothing. Make sure you’re ready for it.

Further reading

Read our recent blog post about Website Security

About Llamara Swann

Llamara is an undergraduate computing student, currently studying at the University of Gloucestershire. Her passion for cyber-security comes from the extensive study of cyber-security and the holy grail that is her dissertation. She focused her dissertation on Ransomware attacks against organisations, so this is where her speciality lies. With a conditional graduate job offer at Raytheon under her belt, Llamara is soon to be helping prevent global cyber-attacks as a full-time career.

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