Ransomware is a worm that infects a computer system; it identifies critical files and documents and then encrypts them. The first indication is a notice that your system is infected and your files are unavailable. The crook then demands a payment in Bitcoin (usually £250) to supply the decryption key. Sadly there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will result in regaining access to your files.
There are two ways to protect your systems from this type of attack:
- Take regular and comprehensive back-ups of your systems and ensure that these are validated. In the worst case you can wipe the system and then reinstall everything from the backup. Many organisations take “an image” and this enables the entire system to be restored in the event of a malfunction.
- Ensure that your systems are kept up to date with all patches and updates incorporated. It is a false economy to keep old computer equipment which will not allow newer operating system to be used. I have seen Microsoft Windows XP, and in one case Microsoft Windows Millennium being used. Microsoft has not been supporting these systems for some time and it is these which have been most vulnerable to attack.
I know that it is very clever in hindsight but cyber security should be high on the agenda for everyone. Too often capital expenditure is cut and computer equipment and software purchases are put off.
There WILL be further attacks of this kind and the gossip suggests that financial organisations will be next. This is a wake-up call to industry, lets hope it is heeded.