Locked out of your files by a Ransomware Virus?
As the aftermath of yet another significant global virus subsides, we decided to look at some simple steps all organisations can take to secure their companies most important resources- second to their staff of course.
As the Malware virus that is “WanaCryptor” took hold on a global scale, some companies and organisations were leaving themselves open to such Ransomware taking hold and controlling their business activities.
Such a virus taking hold of your data and crucial files, can cause many a sleepless night for not only your IT department, but also users of the data.
However, there are some simple steps we can all take to ensure we are not leaving an “open door” to allow hacking systems on to our organisations intranet. Of course, no system is 100% safe, therefore, we should also look at what systems can we put in place to ensure if we are hit by such a virus, the downtime to our business is kept to a minimum.
Keeping Operating Systems up to date…
Its no secret, up-to-date software systems can be expensive. In many cases, the old saying of, “you get what you pay for” works well in this category. The way in which many Ransomware viruses operate is, they look for an out of date security patch, or weakness- sometimes referred to as a Back-Door. All softwares’ have these, although over time the software developers will find these through vigorous testing and day to day usage. Security patches will be written which close these doors. However, eventually patches will stop to be written as new versions of the software are released. This is the time we should all be upgrading to the new versions, to ensure all our back doors are firmly closed and bolted shut! Operating Systems (OS’s) such as Windows XP have long since been replaced (I understand the last security patch for this was published some 10 years ago now!). We would always suggest having Windows updates set to “Automatic”, although we appreciate this may impact on some other softwares’ if suitable testing of such updates have not been implemented to ensure no conflict between other software/drivers etc your organisation may use. Software developers go through vigorous testing of their systems before launch date, although they can’t test for everything.
Up to date Antivrus and Firewall systems
Antivirus systems come in all shapes and sizes, some free and some carry a small monthly charge. Unlike OS’s there is no such golden rule of, the higher you pay the better the protection in this case I am afraid. We would always suggest running a good paid for service on workstations which carry a higher risk value i.e, workstations with constant access to emails, downloads, online activity and ones which contain crucial information. Such a system could be Kaspersky Lab. For all other workstations a free system such as Avast should secure your data. As well as this, always have a Malware blocker running on the workstations. Again, keeping these up to date and regular scan times is crucial.
Backup, Backup and double check that Backup
There are several types of backing up facilities available, and we know the reluctance of many to consider the Cloud as one, but as a recent article shows there is really no need for such reluctance. If you choose a Cloud or online backup service, ensure the provider you choose have a versioning function, which not only keeps the most recent version of the files, but also the previous version. Thus ensuring, if your backup becomes corrupt or infected with the same infection as your workstation, you can simply rollback to the previous back up.
In addition, ensure you have a backup held on an external portable hard drive in a secure place within your own office or storage facility. Do not leave this usb external drive plugged in to the pc when not physically backing up, as the last thing you want is for the virus to spread from your pc on to the plugged in portable drive back up.
Which ever backup option you decide upon, ensure you have scheduled backup times- e.g 6pm at the end of each working day etc..
Staff Training and Virus Awareness..
Apart from poor system management, lack of staff training plays a significant part of many virus infections. Many Ransomware’s come in to an Intranet can be as simple as someone physically opening an email they shouldn’t have, and then opening an attachment within the email. Staff should be suitably trained in what they should and should not open in the form of emails. Emails with .zip files attached, particularly that you are not expecting, should be a significant key warning sign to something isn’t right.
In the fields of Digital Document and Records Management, a virus such as Ransomware, can be devastating to any organisation. Such viruses, attack portable media files such as .pdf, .tif, .jpeg as well as the usual Microsoft word, excel and PowerPoint formats etc… Like many digital companies, we generate hundreds of thousands of these types of files every week, therefore it is crucial our systems are secure and tested on a regular basis.
By following the simple steps above, not only should your system be safe and secure, but in the unlikely event of something getting through the closed doors, there is feasible and workable backup to ensure downtime is kept to a minimum.
I recall having a conversation with an internet security professional not that long ago. Who explained, you can have every possible security procedure in place, but there is one important thing a computer system needs to operate, and therefore a virus needs to spread. A Power Supply. If in doubt, walk (running, would pose a Health and Safety issue I am sure) over to the power supply, and pull out the plug.. Problem solved.
At McPhersons, we implement all of the above procedures as well as others not shown, to ensure not only our own data but our clients data is secure at all times. If you would like to find out further details on how we can assist with securing your data (paper, microfilm and electronic) please don’t hesitate to contact us.