Last week's systemic outbreak of the WannaCry ransomware virus reportedly infected victims in 150 countries, paralyzing computers running factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems before finally slowing down. Thousands more infections were reported this week, largely in Asia, where many businesses were already closed when the malware first struck. Experts are warning that another ransomware attack can quickly follow, since it doesn’t take much effort to change the code and start over – and there’s a lot of money at stake.
Ransomware, a malicious program that locks a computer's files until a ransom is paid, is not new but the size of this attack by the WannaCry malware is "unprecedented", according to EU police body Europol. It infects machines running Windows operating systems. Security experts said it was likely triggered by a piece of software that enters companies when employees click on email attachments, then it quickly spreads.
Is your business at risk?
Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update for version 10 in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it. The worldwide effort to extort cash from computer users spread so widely that Microsoft quickly changed its policy, making security fixes available for free for the older Windows systems still used by millions of individuals and smaller businesses. “This is a wake-up call for small businesses,” said Ron Mondor at Zantek Information Technology. “If you’re not vigilant about assessing risks, upgrading software and installing patches, then your business is at risk.”
In every scenario, end-user precautions and awareness are your first line of defense. If you are a Zantek managed services client, your servers and workstations are up-to-date and patched for this vulnerability. You are also running a managed antivirus solution and firewall, and likely have Datto’s industry-leading backup solution. Still, it only takes one person to inadvertently expose your critical business data to ever-evolving threats.
How do you protect your data?
If you don’t have Zantek managed services:
- Install patches and updates for all of your software - these can include important security fixes.
- On every device connected to your network, keep antivirus software running and upated, if manual updates are required (we recommend solutions that are constantly updated).
- Deply a commercial strength firewall that's managed and updated in real time to ward off new security threats as they evolve.
- Backup your data! Automated backups are the most effective way to mitigate ransomware infections - it enables you to recover files if your computer or network is attacked (without paying ransom!).
For every business - even with best-practice IT management:
- Do not click links in emails or open attachments unless you're certain they are legitimate and be especially wary of .EXE and .ZIP files.
- When browsing, do not visit questionable websites, download unknown files, or click ads.
Takeaway – Be on alert!
Many experts are warning that last week’s cyber-attack is the tip of the iceberg. If your business doesn’t have a dedicated expert assessing risk, updating software and monitoring your systems, it’s time to consider outsourcing your IT maintenance. Tapping into external expertise can prevent business-crippling disruptions, while streamlining your operations and even reducing costs.
- Case study: Outsource to reduce costs and streamline IT
- 3 IT support options to consider
- Request a quote for IT managed services
Image courtesy of Tanya3597 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net