Computer viruses have been around for as long as the PC. However, these days their effects can be quite staggering. In the old days, you would install some software from a disk on the cover of a magazine and your PC would crash. These days, you click on an attachment in an email and all the data on your network is encrypted with a message demanding payment.
Locky, a “popular” strain of ransomware, dominated the email malware lists for the first half of this year, so you can expect it to be received by your email server at some point. If you are the victim of a ransomware attack, your only realistic way out is by resorting to backups. Paying a ransom is never a good idea, just make sure your backups are current and valid and cover every system.
Don’t forget that these types of viruses could well encrypt every piece of data that is connected to your network, so if you backup to disk, your backup copies will also be encrypted. The backups need to be saved to devices that are not readily connected to your network. Using a formal off site backup facility would usually provide this kind of protection as it would only establish a connection when the backup is being transferred off site, not all the time.
It is fair to say that, whilst it is imperative that operating systems are patched and the virus/email protection systems are kept up to date, your main defence is in staff training. For ransomware to run, someone needs to click on a link or attachment in an email. Staff must be constantly reminded never to open attachments in unsolicited emails, unless they are certain the message is genuine. Key things to look for are:-
• Are you expecting the email? – if not then be suspicious
• Is the sender’s domain name incorrectly spelt? – a sure sign that it is fake
• Does the email use language that you wouldn’t associate with the sender or is it very generic?
• Does the email have poor grammar and spelling?
Gartner predicts that 99% of all vulnerabilities exploited will have been known about for over a year. This means that your best protection is simple: educate your staff, keep security systems up to date and make sure your backups are fit for purpose.