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Beware of Ransomware

Ransomware is a serious problem that faces any Internet-connected computer or network. While not all attacks are as well-known as the Wanna Cry virus that crippled the British National Health System’s network last May, ransomware remains a constant threat.

Ransomware is a type of virus that attacks a computer or a network and encrypts every file it can reach. A message then appears demanding payment (often in an untraceable cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin), in exchange for which the hacker will decrypt the files. The havoc this can wreak with a system is enormous, not least of all because, even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that the victim’s files will actually be decrypted. (Nor is there even a guarantee that the encryption can be reversed at all.)

As with other computer viruses, the initial infection is disturbingly easy to effect. All it takes is the unwitting opening of an email attachment by one user on a network for software to be able to infiltrate the system. Some viruses become active immediately, while others have an incubation period during which they lie dormant prior to wreaking havoc.)

Since we at TechZone Networks are concerned about the security of all the networks we install and maintain, we would like to offer you a few simple precautions to take in order to keep your systems safe from ransomware attacks.

First and foremost: never open an attachment from an unknown sender. That sounds simple enough, but a favorite device of hackers is to send messages either by hacking the account of a sender you know, or by creating email addresses that are sneakily similar to those of known senders. Always be careful when opening email. There are a lot of traps out there. When in doubt about something, err on the side of caution and don’t open it. You can always email the supposed sender to make sure that the questionable message really emanated from someone you know.

Second, always keep your software up-to-date. The Wanna Cry virus exploited a weakness in Windows for which Microsoft had actually already issued a patch. Networks that had been patched were impervious to the virus; older systems (such as the British National Health Services) were the ones that fell prey to the attack, with the devastating results that made international news last year.

The importance of the third precaution we urge on you cannot be overstated. In three words: backup, backup, backup. That literally means three kinds of backup. While network-attached backups should be maintained, and are useful and readily available in many situations, such a backup would be useless were the network to become encrypted. You therefore must also have an off-site off-network backup system if your data are to be kept safe.

Recent technological developments have provided for a further type of backup that any network today should have: backing the system up to the Cloud. Cloud backup is even more impervious to some forms of ransomware than an off-site backup, and can more readily be kept completely current. Nevertheless, these three backup systems shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive: any properly secured network should have all of them.

We also remind you that backups should be made religiously. A backup that is a week behind can mean that an entire week’s work for every single one of your employees can be lost should the network fall prey to an attack. Up-to-date and diversified backups can effectively neutralize the threat of a ransomware attack.

At TechZone Networks, we are extremely diligent when it comes to securing our clients’ systems against attacks of all kinds, including ransomware. We do our best to ensure that the networks under our supervision are running the most up-do-date versions software in order to eliminate network vulnerabilities before an attack can occur. We also provide our clients with state-of-the-industry diversified backup systems that will minimize the damage a ransomware attack can cause. When combined with proper vigilance on your part when it comes to opening email attachment, our clients may rest assured that they are as safe from a ransomware attack as is humanly possible.

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