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How to Prevent Ransomware from Making Businesses "WannaCry"

Has technology failed or have we failed technology? An event of disastrous proportions has compromised the integrity of computers all around the globe.

In May, older Microsoft systems became vulnerable to a worldwide cyberattack. Over 300,000 computers in 150 countries were hit by the virus ranging from government, healthcare and private organizations. A patch was released in March that protected computers from the attack, but many people failed to update their systems.

And you thought Y2K was bad.

The hackers have yet to be identified, but the National Security Agency believes the attack is linked to the North Korean government.  Components of a NSA cyberweapon were used to create the malware, which hackers called “WannaCry.” This attack was classified as ransomware, meaning hackers refused to return control of these computers back to their owners until they were paid. In this one attack, they received $140,000 in bitcoin.

But before you start shredding documents, destroying computers and reverting back to the typewriter, there might be an easier solution to these recent ransomware attacks.

Be Careful What You Click On

Educating employees on the dangers of malware and teaching them to exercise caution when clicking on e-mail attachments, especially attachments containing compressed or ZIP files, is an important first step to protecting your business from cyberattacks.

One of the best ways to do this is to send out fake malicious emails to your employees to see how many people click on them. This can provide a good indication as to how vulnerable your business is to phishing schemes and where your cybersecurity systems are weakest. From this point, you can properly educate your employees and give them the necessary training to take human error out of the equation.

Keep Your Software Updated

If your company uses an older operating system, like Windows XP or Windows 7, it is highly advised to keep these systems fully updated or replace them entirely for something newer. Technology is increasing exponentially, and systems that were once able to protect themselves from this kind of attack are no longer able to keep up. In fact, Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, so if your company is still running on this operating system, your files are not protected and it’s time for an upgrade.

The main reason this attack was able to spread so quickly was because people were still using antiquated software and didn’t update their systems. It is imperative for employers to instill the importance of updating their software into their employees. It is also the responsibility of the employer to purchase new software as their systems become outdated. The sooner this is done, the more protected your company is from malware.

Have a Contingency Plan

Think of the absolute worst case scenario that could come from a cyberattack. Now take whatever that is and plan ahead. Create policies within your organization that address your company’s vulnerabilities and coordinate with your legal team to make sure your business is covered.

Unfortunately, there is not one set plan that can keep businesses from getting attacked and these kinds of decisions are often complex. Taking proactive measures can be expensive, but the cost of a large cyberattack greatly surpasses the expenses needed to properly protect yourself and your business.

If you do nothing else, make sure your employees are backing up their files to an offline source, like an external hard drive. In the event of attack, at least your files will not be completely corrupted or lost. The worst thing your company can do in the event of a cyberattack is to panic. Prepare yourself, educate your employees and update your software. Follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll be ready for when the hackers come knocking.

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