Protect Your Business Computers and Networks from Ransomware – Twin Cities, MN
Throughout the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, businesses of all sizes are worried about the frequent reports of computer systems being held for ransom by malicious software known as ransomware. In a typical attack, computer programs and data are encrypted and systems are locked up by the criminals. As a leading IT technical services company in Minnesota, we want everyone to be aware of this danger and help businesses, small and large, take steps to protect themselves from malicious software that is being spread all over the world by sophisticated extortionists. You should know that paying the ransom demands to these criminals does not ensure that your data and access will be returned. All too often, businesses pay ransom fees to have their data unencrypted and restored, only to find that their money is gone along with their data.
Fortunately, by carefully following the common-sense set of guidelines listed below, you can protect your systems and data from almost all malware attacks. The same measures will also work to prevent viruses and malware from getting to your systems and data. Proper protection requires vigilance by everyone in a company or organization, of course. That’s why training employees about these security risks and insisting that they follow safe practices is essential. Since no system of protections is foolproof, though, you’ll also find tips on creating a redundant backup program that can be used to restore your systems in the case of a ransomware attack or other malicious activity.
Essential Steps for Preventing Ransomware and Malware Attacks
- Install and Regularly Update Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software – All major publishers of these programs work constantly to identify and protect against all forms of malicious software. By installing current versions of this software and enabling automatic updates, you can protect yourself from known threats and future threats.
- Regularly Update Computer Operating System and Network Software – Most malicious software operates by taking advantage of flaws in operating system and network software. Publishers like Microsoft and Apple are constantly vigilant and issue regular updates to eliminate such flaws. These security updates should be installed automatically or regularly.
- Do Not Open Email Attachments from Unknown or Suspect Sources – Spam and phishing emails are common ways for malware and ransomware to spread. No attachment that is attached to any email should be downloaded, opened, or run, unless it is expected and from a trusted source. Even if the sender is known, check with the sender if not expected.
- Do Not Click Links in Email or on Social Media – Always be suspicious of internet links in emails or social media posts, especially if the actual URL is not visible. Abbreviated links and blind links can lead to unsafe destinations and could deliver malware or ransomware. This should be a hard and fast rule in all business networks: If there is any question at all, don’t click.
- Beware of Spam and Phishing Emails – Emails that appear to be from a trusted sender may be faked and designed to get you to click on a malicious link. The best rule to follow is to navigate directly to all websites, especially financial and other secure sites. If you never click on a link, you’ll never get fooled by spam or phishing attempts.
- Avoid Visiting Questionable Websites and Clickbait Advertising Sites – Your business computers and networks should be used for business purposes only. Random internet browsing can often lead to malicious or dangerous websites. Pornography sites, streaming video websites, and clickbait sites that display multiple advertisements are common sources of malware infections, including ransomware. Stick to business, and you’ll avoid such sites.
- Be Cautious with USB Drives and Media from Outside Sources – It has become common for people to hand out USB memory sticks and drives, along with other media, at trade shows, conferences, and other locations. Although it’s rare, these can contain malware which may be installed on your computers. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so scan these carefully on a computer not connected to your network before using them.
- Always Pay Attention to Operating System Warnings – In Windows and other operating systems, you may be notified if an unexpected or new program tries to run or install itself. Never allow any program you do not recognize to run. These notifications are for your protection. If you have any questions, check with a system administrator or IT professional if you see such a notification. Always think carefully and confirm safety before clicking to allow the operation.
Steps You Can Take to Ensure a Fast, Safe Recovery from a Ransomware Attack
Despite all precautions, it’s possible for a virus, malware or ransomware attack to successfully invade your PC or Network. Since new malware is created daily, there’s always a new threat making the rounds. Your best protection against these attacks, as well as system failures, is a planned and regularly updated system and data backup program. If such a program is in place, you can restore your system quickly and safely and get back to work. If you don’t have a backup available, recovery may be impossible. One of the most valuable services our IT services company in Minneapolis St. Paul offers is a comprehensive backup solution that matches your needs. A complete backup system includes:
- Emergency System Restoration Backups – For individual computers and servers, a system restoration backup can be created on a USB drive, an external hard drive or on a DVD/R disk. In the case of a system failure or destructive malware attack, the operating system can be restored quickly, using this backup, which should be stored safely away from the computer. For networks, too, a similar system backup can be created. These system restoration backups should be refreshed whenever system updates are performed.
- Complete Hard Drive Image Backups – Stored on an external hard drive or remotely in cloud storage, this backup is a complete backup of an entire hard drive. It includes the operating system, all installed software, and all data stored at the time the backup is made. It is an ideal way to restore your system to an earlier state in the case of hard drive failure or a malware attack that has encrypted both application and data files. These updates take some time to create and to restore. They should be updated whenever major changes have been made to your system, or on a regular schedule.
- Redundant Data File Backups – Created daily, and always with the retention of at least one previous backup, these data backups are essential for every business, and prevent data from being lost for any reason. They can be stored off-site, in the cloud, or on local data storage drives. Our IT experts can assist you in setting up these crucial backup programs to automatically create data redundancy as a protection against a wide range of problems.
- Work-in-Progress Backups – For projects that are underway, it’s important to backup data files on a regular schedule during the process of creating them. Any number of situations can arise where a project can be potentially lost. By saving the current version of the data in a separate location on a frequent basis, any problem that results in data loss can be restored as of the time of the last backup. Such backups can be saved on USB drives or as email attachments and stored on a remote email server or in the cloud.
Data Security Implementation Against Ransomware – Minneapolis St. Paul
By following the simple precautions listed above and through the creation of a robust, redundant backup system for operating systems, network configurations and application and data files, businesses of all sizes can protect themselves against all threats, including ransomware, viruses and malware. While no prevention program can ever be 100% effective, safeguarding data should be a top priority for every business. The preventive measures we recommend will prevent almost all ransomware threats, if followed closely. The backup strategies shown above are further insurance. Contact our Twin Cities IT support company soon to discuss your data security and protection measures against outside threats. We will be happy to help you create a comprehensive program to ensure your data integrity and provides a simple path to restoration should disaster strike.