It seems not a week goes by that you don’t hear or read about a new security exploit that hackers are taking advantage of to bring down corporate enterprises and small businesses alike with ransomware attacks, remote access attacks, and more.
Most recently, in May 2017 is the WannaCry (also called WannaCrypt) cyber-attack that infected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries in just four days, affecting government, healthcare, and private company systems by encrypting their servers and workstations and effectively locking users out, until ransoms were paid.
Despite the recent news, it’s not that these attacks are new, uncommon, or worse than before but they are happening more frequently. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts global ransomware damage costs will exceed $5 billion by the end of 2017, which is up 15x from the $325 million in 2015.
Ransomware is not just an international problem either. A report from the Microsoft Corp. in 2016 states that Canada had the third highest number of ransomware occurrences behind the United States and Italy. Cases of the malware have made National headlines with infections at Carleton University, and the Ottawa Hospital.
Large organizations aren’t the only ones who need to protect themselves from these attacks; small businesses are just as much at risk. There have also been numerous cases reported in the news of small businesses, charities, home users and even locally in Windsor-Essex the City of Windsor being blackmailed by hackers after ransomware has encrypted their files.
In Windsor - Essex County specifically, during 2016, a third of the services we provided to our clients were related to handling cases of ransomware, other types of malware attacks along with updating network security, implementing backup solutions and preventative measures.
Although with all this new attention that ransomware is getting, the main defense strategies remain the same.
Keeping Software and Operating Systems Up-To-Date
You have seen them before countless times - those little windows that pop up, notifying you that there are software updates available for applications or your operating system. Many times they have a habit of showing up right when you’re in the middle of doing something important and it’s all too convenient to click on that “Remind Me Later” button. Later becomes ‘much later’, and your machine is left entirely vulnerable to the latest hacks and exploits.
Many times software updates and patches are released to add new features or fix bugs in the software, but most importantly they include fixes that close security loopholes and weaknesses. These exploits could allow hackers to infect your computer with no action on your part other than visiting a website, opening a compromised message, or playing an infected media file.
Once your machine is compromised the malware can be used to steal your data, give them control over your computer, and even use it to help infect other computers and servers in your network.
If you or your staff are the types to ignore system or software updates or just not checking that things are up to date, you are putting your entire business at great risk.
So even though these software updates seem like a hassle, you don’t have to do them right away but you should they should be done as soon as possible; they are a preventative measure that will help protect the safety of your data, your business, and potentially your job.
What can Business Owners and CIOs Do to Prevent Malware Attacks
A network’s security is only as strong as its weakest link, and all the best practices and security software cannot prevent human error. If your systems are not up to date with the latest security patches all it takes is the wrong click on a malicious link by an employee to cause the organization's entire network to start being infected. A strong and secure network also requires a strong network security policy that all staff adhere to, and are trained to recognize threats in order to truly prevent these types of threats.
If you are a CEO, CIO, business owner or IT manager and are concerned about keeping your software applications and systems up-to-date, contact us at Netmon Services. We can work with you and your team for training as well as provide managed IT services and solutions that will ensure all systems in your network are up-to-date, secured, and backed up along with other professional IT services we offer.