What is ransomware, and how can you protect your business against it?

Imagine this. It’s 6am on Monday morning and you walk into your office, ready for another week of work. You sit down at your computer to check your email, but you suddenly realize that something is wrong. You can’t access anything, and your computer appears to have been locked down while you were out of the office over the weekend. A message pops up informing you that all of your files have been encrypted and demanding $3,000 delivered to a certain email address in bitcoin within 48 hours or your entire computer hard drive will be deleted.

That sounds like a nightmare, but it’s become a brutal reality for many small business owners and even city government officials in the last several months. Ransomware attacks have become increasingly common, even leading multiple security agencies to issue formal warnings about the spread of ransomware. This problem is not just limited to big cities, either - small towns in Georgia have been hit with major ransomware attacks and crippled for weeks. Last month, Jackson County was forced to pay over $400,000 to hackers just to restore their computer systems. They aren’t alone. Stone Mountain, Albany, and even the City of Atlanta have all been hit by ransomware in the past several months.

But what is ransomware, and how does it work? Essentially, ransomware is a virus that infects your computer. It could be through an email link, infected website, or even a deliberately targeted attack. Once the ransomware virus infects your computer, it rapidly encrypts (locks down/makes useless) all of your files. There’s no way to get your files un-encrypted without paying the ransom demanded, unless you’ve prepared for this well in advance.

How can you guard against ransomware? Hopefully by now you’ve recognized the dangers and immense risk it poses to your business or organization, and you want to do something to prevent it. One of the best ways you can guard against ransomware is by having full offsite backups of your files. Even server backups aren’t enough, as ransomware can often infect and encrypt your server. If you have a full backup of the encrypted files, it’s easy to ignore the hackers, wipe your computer clean, and restore the backup.

Ransomware may be one of the biggest issues for small businesses going forward in the 21st century. For most, this issue might seem far away or not likely to happen to them. But I can assure you that at some point, it will. The team here at Wise Computer Solutions has dealt with dozens of ransomware infections and attacks right here in Swainsboro, Dublin, Vidalia, and Statesboro. Don’t wait - make sure your business is protected and ready to withstand the ransomware attack. If you have any questions or need help, please call us at 478-289-6607.

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