How to Keep Your Business Safe from Ransomware

The recent global ransomware attack known as WannaCry, left thousands of users locked out of the data on their computers. Luckily, thanks to a tech blogger who reverse-engineered samples of the malware, the threat was soon eradicated.

Unfortunately, recovering the data once you are hit with a ransomware attack is not possible. However, there are certain measures you can take to minimize or even completely eliminate the possibility of such an attack

Understanding ransomware, how it works and how to prevent it is an important step towards keeping your business and your data safe.

Know What You’re Dealing With

While many cyber-attacks focus on stealing your data, ransomware works a bit differently. Cybercriminals that use ransomware, a type of malware, are after your money and attempt to blackmail a payment out of you by threatening your data. Hackers either don’t allow you to access your data or claim that your data is at risk and then offer to fix the issue if you pay.

Cryptovirus, cryptoworm or cryptotrojan, as ransomware is also called, can hit anyone from home users to businesses and public institutions. Each target presents different opportunities for cyber criminals.

Home users and public institution employees often don’t have advanced cyber security knowledge. Public institutions may also have valuable information that they cannot afford to lose.Hitting a business could mean big money, and businesses sometimes would rather just pay up than deal with the inconvenience of reporting the attack.

Types of Ransomware

Scareware, also called fraudware and rogue scanner software, is intended to scare you with a pop-up message about malware in the system. There’s no real threat, but the scareware gives the illusion that there is and says that you need to pay a certain amount to remove the malware. Knowing the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sites and programs is instrumental in recognizing scareware.

Locker ransomware is similar to scareware in that it attempts to scare you into paying, except in this case, the pop-up message claims that it has detected illegal activity on your computer. It often has the seal of either the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice and says that you need to pay to avoid legal trouble. You can safely close and ignore such messages, as no government organization would operate like this.

The worst-case scenario is encrypting ransomware, where the malware actually encrypts your files and cybercriminals demand payment to give you your information back. The problem is that there’s no guarantee they’ll follow through on their end of the bargain if you pay them, and it opens the door for future attacks. For those reasons, cyber security professionals advise against paying.

How to Protect Your Device

  1. Invest in Cyber Security.

The first thing you should do to protect your data is to find a high-quality antivirus program. Ask a cyber-security professional for a recommendation and use the advice to help make your decision.

For complete protection, look for a comprehensive security suite that can handle all kinds of threats, or combine your antivirus program with separate antimalware and antiransomware programs. Antivirus programs typically have free trial periods available, so try out a few to see which one suits you best. Once you’ve found it, it’s a good idea to purchase the full version for superior protection, especially if you often have sensitive data on your device.

  1. Backup, Backup, Backup.

The prices for external hard drives and personal cloud storage seemingly get lower every day. If your business needs to store a lot of data consider cloud backups, there are plenty of excellent cloud storage services on the market. Regardless of which option you prefer, not backing up your data is a crucial mistake.

It can be tedious to backup data, especially if you work with a large amount of it every day. Just remember that taking the time to make a backup is far better than being left with nothing because of a cyber-attack.

If you go with a cloud service, check the encryption and authentication features to ensure that your data will be secure. Remember to physically remove external hard drivers after making the backup so they can’t get infected.

  1. Education Is Power.

The best way to be ready for potential threats is to know what’s out there, and this is much easier thanks to all the useful information available in a couple clicks. Stay up to date by reading tech blogs and by getting in touch with your IT team or cyber security professionals.

Ransomware has been around since the early 2000s, and it doesn’t choose its victims, so even Mac users are no longer safe. Read about what other users did when hit with ransomware in case you find yourself in the same situation, and share your knowledge with the people you know.

  1. Skepticism Pays Off

You can never be too careful about what you see online. Look closely at all your emails, and if you get one from a stranger with an attachment, just delete it. Watch out for shortened links, as you can’t be sure where they will lead. Use online services that can show you the full URL before you click on it.

There are a few suspicious signs to look for with emails you receive, even those that appear to be from a company. These include generic messages that don’t mention your name, a format that looks different from the company’s usual emails and any requests for personal information, which you should never provide over email.

  1. Don’t Pay the Ransom.

How much do cybercriminals try to get with ransomware? It could be anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

A ransom demand is a crime, and if you give in, all you’re doing is encouraging it. Cybercriminals will use ransomware as long as people pay them. And once they get their money, they have no incentive to help you decrypt your files.

A Kaspersky survey supports the strategy of not paying ransom. It found that of the ransomware victims who paid the ransom, one in five didn’t recover their files.

Final Thoughts

A ransomware attack that results in your sensitive data being encrypted could be devastating for your business. However, being proactive instead of reactive is crucial. Following the information outlined in this article can help you secure your data. Just remember to back up everything so even if you’re hit with an attack, you can get your data back yourself.

About the Author

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.

 

Is Your Social Media Profile Secure?

With people spending more and more of their lives online – it can be difficult to know where to draw the line. Sharing almost every aspect of your life might have been commonplace – but you could also be putting yourself at risk.

While social media has become a great place to share and communicate with friends and family – it has also become a place where criminals target the unsuspecting. This is becoming a growing problem. People who came to the internet late in their lives might already have a sense of reluctance to share absolutely everything – but those who have grown up with it might not be aware that they could be sharing too much. We’re going to look at a few simple security tips that should make your social media profile more secure.

1. Don’t share too much

Sharing parts of your life can be great fun – but some people take things too far. Do you really want people knowing where you are all the time? Leave a bit of mystery in your life – it could actually protect you. Simply advertising when you’re not at home or even making it really obvious where you live or work are not the greatest ideas. Use some common sense. By all means, share photos and enjoy yourself – but try and keep some things private in your life.

Remember when you need to reset a password because you lost it? Oftentimes they’ll ask you when your birthday is or what your pet’s name is. This is the sort of information people freely share on social media. That means you’re giving this secure information away for free. Don’t do it.

2. Make sure you know all your “friends”

Having as long a friend list as possible has almost become a competition between some people. It makes you seem popular – but that’s not really the reality. Try and rise above this sort of behaviour. Only accept someone as a “friend” if you really know who they are. This means what you share should only be seen by people you know.

Of course, you can’t control how your friends use their accounts, so make sure you really only have people you can rely on in real life. A good question to ask yourself is – would you stop and talk to that person if you saw them in real life? If not – why are they on your friend list? You’ve got to get away from the desire to have thousands of friends and realise that some things (like your security) are more important.

3. Don’t share access of your account

Some people share their password and let their friends log in for them. This is a huge mistake and could be asking for trouble. Make sure it’s only you that has access to your account. You should also log out when you’ve finished – especially on public computers like those in libraries or at college.

4. Vary your passwords

Some people use the same password for everything. While this can make things easier to remember – it also means losing access to one account could spell disaster. Make sure you vary your passwords and change them regularly. Don’t write them down, either.

About the author

Keith has a strong background in advising people on security issues. He’s been writing about tech and social media for a number of years. In his spare time, he also writes for a private tuition service based in Singapore.

5 Social Media Security Risks for Your Business

People love social media. Social networks provide limitless opportunities to have fun and communicate with other people. Unfortunately, social media has also become the focus of an increasing number of cyber attacks. Knowing that so many employees use social media while at work, hackers have had success attacking companies by compromising their data and harming their reputation.

Although cybercriminals routinely infiltrate popular social networks with fake accounts and malicious software, social media users often represent their most valuable asset. Regardless, you must accept responsibility to secure your company from all online threats. Learn about the following five social media security concerns so you can improve your business’ security.

1. Information Leakage

Employees can choose to use the same social media platforms at work that they use at home. Using familiar tools and a familiar interface in order to work together and share files makes sense to many employees. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, however, can convey a false sense of intimacy that can result in the sharing of sensitive information that businesses owners and managers would prefer to keep secure.

Sharing and chatting on social media for business can cause substantial damage to organizations, especially when personal accounts are used. Social media sites do not have the same security features, such as access control, that project management software has. As a result, information shared on social media can often fall into the hands of distant “friends of friends” or public users who can attempt to profit from it.

If your company wants to prevent information leakage, it must implement and enforce acceptable use policies that prohibit the use of social media for internal business processes. Such a simple precaution can prevent the loss of trade secrets and reputation damage. Similarly, businesses should also enact guidelines and provide tools that encourage communications and file sharing using secure tools.

2. Social Scams and Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks use messages that appear to originate from a familiar person. Users believe they can trust the sender and open the messages, allowing hackers, scammers and other malicious users to obtain login credentials for various websites, including social networks. The scammers use those credentials to gain access to victims’ accounts and then attack more people by sending them spurious messages with enticing subject lines.

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Social platforms saw the number of phishing attacks on their users more than double in 2015. Hackers use the compromised accounts to post scams that install malware or perform other nefarious tasks. These cyber criminals can then direct their efforts at your company by attacking your customers or by impersonating your customer service agents. Some scams can offer long-term reputation damage and also compromise confidential information.

3. Malicious Apps

So-called “bring your own device” policies in the workplace have opened the door to business data networks via malicious software. This type of attack works because companies often have insufficient control over employee-owned devices. Although cyber criminals have had limited success with virus distribution via social media, they can easily hack the smartphone social media apps, converting them to act as gateways to your network and the data it hosts.

4. Malware Attacks and Hacks

Malware can enter business networks via social media sites and thereby give hackers access to customer and trade data. Malware can also modify user information and corrupt databases to deny employees access to vital applications and data.

Sometimes cybercriminals post security disinformation online and thereby mislead social media users into compromising their accounts. As a result, well-meaning employees can unwittingly release confidential information and harm the reputation of your firm.

5. Uneducated Employees 

Employees continue to rank near the top of business security threats. Dissatisfied workers who have access to vital business secrets can post sensitive information to social media and thereby cause irreparable damage to your company. When employees get bored or want to get revenge on a co-worker, they also can, for either fun or spite, release inappropriate information via social media sites without understanding the repercussions of their behavior.

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Employees who have never been educated and trained in proper security practices can easily click on phishing links or reveal information to a fake social media account without realizing that they have compromised security.

Get the best protection for your business by training your entire labor force to understand the importance of data security. As part of the process, make sure either you or your IT manager teaches your employees how to recognize malware, malicious applications, phishing attacks and other social-media-based threats. You should also prohibit your employees from using unauthorized software to do their job.

Recognizing the above five social media security threats will boost your awareness of threats that can harm your business. The online landscape continually changes, so you should monitor technology news to stay forward of new cybersecurity developments. You should also ensure that you have the latest internet security software installed on your workstations as well as on employee-owned devices.

Educating yourself and your staff will continue to play a vital role in securing your business. Begin the process by publishing guidelines for the use of social media in your company and holding periodic training sessions that help employees recognize threats. Taking control over social media in your biz will do much to safeguard your company’s data and your brand.

Author byline:

Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money. Find him on Twitter @josh8mcallister

The E-Tailer’s Guide To Increasing Turnover

All online retailers will want to increase their turnover as much as possible during the next twelve months. That is how you will raise enough profit to expand and take your operation to the next level. The issue is that people without experience in this process often make the wrong moves. They spend lots of time and money on things that aren’t going to create the desired results. With that in mind, I’ve included some excellent advice on this page that could help you strive ahead. If you put these tips and tricks into action, I’m confident your turnover will reach new heights this year.

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Simplify your checkout process as much as possible

You need to make sure the checkout process on your website is as straightforward as possible. That will help to ensure customers don’t have enough time to change their minds before clicking the order button. Also, it means they won’t have to work hard to purchase from your company. There are lots of different ecommerce checkout solutions you could use. However, you’ll always get better results if you create something new. So, now is the time to get in touch with your web developers and explain your requirements. They will design a system that meets all your expectations for little expense.

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Provide a basic site design with easy navigation options

The way in which your website appears could play a significant role in the number of sales you achieve. Considering that, you should spend some time looking at the most popular ecommerce websites in the world. Amazon is the largest online seller at the moment, and their domain is incredibly simple. You need to follow suit if you want to dominate the industry. Make sure that even a child could work out how to find the products they need on their site. Add a search tool, and ensure your categories are refined as much as possible.

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Use technology to present information about financing

If you sell expensive items via your website, many of your customers might have to look elsewhere for financing deals. That is a major issue for you because that could take them a lot of time. So, you should use technology to your advantage and ensure they never leave your checkout page. There are platforms out there you can use to remove all the hassle and offer financing deals to your customers. You should help them to see the best solutions available in a matter of seconds. In most instances, they’ll just need to enter information about their earnings. The software will then make recommendations.

Put those tips into practice as you move through this year, and I’m confident you’ll increase turnover beyond any expectations. The basic rule of thumb is that you just need to make life easy for your customers. Don’t expect them to work hard to give you their money because that isn’t going to happen. You’re the one who has to make all the effort if you want to encourage more sales. With a bit of luck, you now have all the knowledge you require.

Casting the Net Wider: Reach More People Today

If your business has a core group of customers but struggles to reach people further afield, you have a clear problem. It’s impossible to grow and expand a business when it’s stuck in a very tight niche. You need to find ways of casting the net wider and reaching more people if you want to make your business bigger and better. When you do this, you mustn’t forget your core customers who provide the business with its base.

Broaden the Scope of Your Brand

The very first thing to do is broaden the overall scope of your brand. If people see your business as only being for a certain kind of consumer, they will be unlikely to even listen to what you have to say. That’s why you need to actively demonstrate how the business is changing and why this matters to your customers. Set up a marketing campaign that is directly aimed at people who have never used your business before. Confound their expectations and brand your business differently. On top of that, you will have to start selling things that have a broader appeal.

Be More Open and Communicative

Being open and communicative about your business is really important at times when you are trying to branch out and reach new people. If your business is closed off and not open to new people, it’s unlikely to do very well at all. So, to ensure your business doesn’t fall behind and lost traction, you should make sure your business has a presence in social media. And when you interact with people on these platforms, make sure you’re open and willing to be humorous. When you do that, more people will see the human side of your business.

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Improve Your Website and Make Sure Content is Optimized

You’ll need to build a new website for your company if you want to make sure that it has the online presence required of modern businesses. If you run a construction company, this is just as true as if you run a tech startup. People often forget that all kinds of businesses need this strong online presence. There are companies that offer general contractor website design services if you do run that kind of business. But no matter what type of business you run, make sure the website is modern, easy to find and easy to use. You should also post content on there that is fully optimized to improve your SEO ranking.

Build Trust Over Time

Trust is important when it comes to the relationships between customers and businesses. If people don’t trust your brand, they won’t trust what it says or what it offers. So, it’s really important that you aim to build trust over time and don’t take customers for granted. It will be a slow process, so don’t expect to see instant results overnight. It simply won’t happen like that. Be prepared to prove your business is changing and appealing to more people. Eventually, the change will happen and people will begin to recognize it as well.

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Are You Doing Enough To Keep Your Startup Secure This Winter?

The days are getting cooler; the evenings are drawing in. It’s become acceptable to turn the heating on, at least for awhile. Pots are bubbling on the stove at home, and the crock pot has come out of storage. For men, the iron can go and stay in the cupboard for a while – putting a sweater over your shirt means that creases aren’t a worry. Yes, it’s fall; and before too long it will be winter.

Winter means different things to different people. Chestnuts roasting, open fires, maybe the first snow isn’t too far away. It’s time to think about Christmas shopping if you haven’t already done yours. And who’s that peering through the window of your darkened business premises? It’s the holiday burglar, come to ruin the season for you and all your employees!

Yes, we all have reason to enjoy the good things about winter. It’s a very cozy season if done right, for sure. But along with those positive aspects, there are things you have to be ready for. The truth is that as those nights get darker, opportunities for break-ins and burglaries increase. Wherever you look, the numbers are the same: property crime spikes when the cover of darkness allows.

For established, large businesses, it is not a non-existent threat. However they have long-established protocols, sometimes a 24-hour business day and security guards. If you’re just getting started, you need to put some thought into this. How strong is your premises security? We’re now in full view of the time of year where it is going to face its sternest tests. Are you confident it will pass them?

It is true that much of the crime against businesses in the present day has taken a more modern bent. But the rise in cybercrime does not mean that opportunistic thieves have hung up their gloves and redirected operations. It means that you have another ball to keep your eye on. And while you should definitely be tightly focused on what can be stolen from your servers, you would also do well to look outside.

  1. Lighting: Deny The Burglar Their Best Friend

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If someone wants to break into premises and steal physical items, they will be motivated to do so unseen. This is why winter is such a profitable time for them. It may be a little cold for hanging around surveillance premises, but it’s dark. And burglars love the dark. If they can move quietly, they can do quite a lot without raising attention. But if your exterior premises are well-lit they may think twice.

Keeping the lights on in the office is a double-edged sword. It won’t exactly save money on electricity, and it’s not great for the planet. Although it discourages some burglars, the more brazen will see it as a shop window – they can take stock of what they’re after and plan a path.

  1. Security Personnel: No Burglar Wants Company

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If you were trying to break in and steal a lot of expensive equipment, you’d want to have privacy, wouldn’t you? It’s an entirely personal thing. It’s very off-putting to have someone walk around the corner with a dog and ask what you’re doing. Puts you right off your burgling. And that’s what you need to count on for your business premises. Having security equipment is one thing; an actual person is better yet.

Ironically, hiring security personnel is a process that needs to be approached with a degree of caution. Make sure that anyone you hire is accredited fully in line with industry standards. Anyone can call themselves a security expert. But there’s a difference between a security guard and a man with a club who likes to fight. Security means doing things the right way.

  1. Recording Equipment: Smile, You’re On Camera!

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Camera equipment on your premises provides a dual service in defense against opportunistic crime. First of all, if the burglar knows it is there, they are liable to think twice and go somewhere that will be an easier target. Secondly, if don’t know it’s there – or try anyway – it will make them easier to identify if they are successful. Check the latest models from Security Camera King and other stockists to see how far security has come.

One key point to note about security cameras is that they should be discreet. Not because you don’t want the thieves to know they are there – ideally, your building should be adorned with signs saying they are. Naturally positioned security cameras can be tampered with. If a burglar knows where they are and can evade or break them, all they are is a very expensive box.

  1. Locks: Strong And Sturdy Wins The Race

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Yes, of course, your doors should have locks. You know that, and we know you know. What’s more important is the quality of those locks. They need to be up-to-date and have a few different elements to them. Burglars tend to know a bit about locking systems, and how to overcome them, so you need to have a few arrows in your quiver here.

Firstly, the locks need to be sturdy. Anything that can be cut through with a blowtorch is useless. Secondly, you need something that can only be accessed digitally. A keycard system for employees means that the doors will stay locked unless someone has a keycard. Thirdly, if you only have a keycard system, you may end up being burgled by an employee. So there should be a master combination lock – and only management can have the combination.

It is fair to say that, by adopting only one of the above elements of security, you will leave yourself vulnerable in other ways. A true and reliable security system requires a combination of ideally all of the above. Your business is important, and you’ve put a lot of effort into building it up. To see it damaged by someone breaking in and taking important items would be dreadful. Don’t let it happen to you. Be safe, be secure.

 

 

Build Your Business Defenses One Step at a Time!

Building defenses for your business is hugely important. You have to come up with a way of looking after yourself and the company. And the way to do that is to look after the business as much as you possibly can. Here are a few ideas you can use to build your business defenses.

IT Support

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What’s the most important area of your business? Well, this is likely to be a subjective question, but for most people, it will be your IT network. This is the basis of how you run and grow a modern business. And that means you have to protect the digital platforms on which your company operates. The way to do that is through the likes of IT support. Bringing in people who are IT experts, and who will be able to take the time to sort out your computers is important. You have to look after your sensitive information, as well as ensuring that your company is always operational on a virtual level. And the only way to ensure that is to make sure you have a really strong IT support team working for you.

Secure Premises

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Your business premises matters just as much as any other part of your business. So you have to understand why it’s so important to protect the premises. There are a lot of things you need to get right if you want to look after your commercial property. First of all, think about the design and layout of the place. Does it suit your needs? Are there many inherent security risks? You might need to consider moving to alternative premises. But, it’s also important to look at how much you can make the property more secure. This is imperative for ensuring that you’re keeping your employees safe at work. Getting a security system installed is a wonderful way of doing this, but you also have to make sure you take more practical steps too. Get someone to examine the structure of the building and make sure there are no inherent safety risks to worry about. Defending your business from the outside world, as well as intruders, is very important.

Attorney

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Why is an attorney so important for protecting your business? Well, the reason is that there are so many things that pose a risk to your company these days. For instance, you may have a customer who received a personal injury while on your premises. And you’ll need a lawyer to protect the legal interests of the company. One of your trucks may have been involved in a road traffic accident. This will mean visiting http://queenerlaw.com/ and getting in touch with someone who can help. Lawyering up in a business sense is not only sensible, but it’s also necessary. So you have to make sure you do this now, and don’t put it off. Lawyers play a huge part in business, and they can ensure that you keep the company on the straight and narrow, and fulfill your legal obligations.

As you can imagine, keeping your business safe and protected is really important. The good news is that there are a lot of different things you can do to go about achieving this. That’s why so many companies these days are so we’ll run and looked after. You can use some of the ideas on this post to help make your business better defended and more secure.