Written on the 22 March 2017 by James Perkins


BUSINESS owners are being warned to prepare and protect themselves from the type of ransomware attacks which hit Australian SMEs so hard in the past year.

The denial-of-access attacks, which include malicious software that infiltrates and encrypts files on computers, then demands payment for their decryption, are costly, says onPlatinum ICT co-founder Shannon Overs.

"It is estimated that the average time to resolve a cyber-attack is 31 days at an average cost of $276,323, and that's according to the Federal Government's Stay Smart Online campaign," says Overs.

Late last year, security software company Kaspersky Lab revealed that ransomware attacks against businesses around the world increased from one every two minutes to one every 40 seconds between January and September 2016.

Australians fell victim en masse to a sophisticated Australia Post-themed ransomware attack late last year, which followed Trend Micro's report that 1.1 million ransomware threats detected in Australia during the first half of 2016 alone.

Overs has personally seen Gold Coast businesses face significant downtime, direct monetary costs and loss of reputation because of a ransomware attack.

"There are quite a few stories, especially late last year regarding ransomware, where someone opens a file and unknowingly encrypts the data in every network it sees," says Overs.

The victim will be asked to deposit an amount of the crypto currency Bitcoin into an account to access data.

"After a period of time, hopefully, but sometimes not, you will get your decrypted access back. In quite a number of cases, people who paid the ransom were not able to decrypt the files at all."

Preparing your business to withstand a ransomware attack is vitally important.

1. Make sure you have up-to-date security and anti-virus software
2. Be aware that the clear majority of attacks can be prevented by simply not clicking on links and attachments
3. Make sure you have adequate backup of your files

"What we find is that when we come across new clients for our IT services, in the past they have essentially purchased anti-virus software from the store, which is only adequate for a short time," says Overs.

Managed service providers such as onPlatinum ICT shoulder the risk associated with managing computer systems and the data within them, allowing the business owner to concentrate on running their business.

Crucially, they provide external backup, which acts as a failsafe in the case that a virus dodges firewalls and anti-virus software.

"Subscription to an experienced managed services provider means you will not go unprotected again, which is generally the reason why people have been impacted by such a security threat," says Overs.

"We recommend to our clients, that they don't pay the ransom, as we can restore their data from a previous backup." says Overs.

Cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods of social engineering to guide people to click on links containing malicious software even impersonating friends and colleagues.

"The criminals are getting super smart at what they are doing," says Overs.

"If you get an email that doesn't look or feel right, such as if it is supposed to be from a colleague or boss, but doesn't sound like them, be aware and act on the side of caution."

Our partners onPlatinum ICT are providing Business News Australia readers a free IT Audit that can uncover the vulnerabilities in your systems, and provide advice on making your business cyber secure. Click here for more details.

Author: James Perkins Connect via: Twitter LinkedIn





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