Important IT Security Message for MPA Networks’ Clients

December 19th, 2013 by admin

One Malicious Email Could Cost you Thousands of Dollars and Take Down your Entire Network – Don’t be a Victim; Learn the Facts!

Ransomware viruses are on the rise and their explosive growth in the past few months has been startling.  We want to help our clients be up-to-date on this issue and understand exactly what we are doing to help protect you, but more importantly, help you understand what you must do to protect yourself.

What is Ransomware?

Let’s start at the beginning. What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malware that infects a host computer (and subsequently the entire network) when a user clicks to open a malicious link or attachment in an email message. The Ransomware virus then encrypts everything on the workstation and host servers, blocking access to your files and essentially rendering IT systems completely unusable UNLESS a hefty fee is paid to decrypt the system and recover your files. In other words, access to your computer’s files and data is held hostage until you pay the ransom fee.

Cartoon of a red haired woman using a chained up computer while a man extends his hand for payment

Phishing Alert - CryptoLocker

CryptoLocker is a new, and particularly malicious, breed of Ransomware discovered only a couple of months ago. CryptoLocker has thousands of minor variations and is especially fierce because these malicious, phishing emails are designed to look and feel exactly like email from a trusted organization. They may be disguised as a harmless message from your bank urging you to check your account information by opening the attachment. Or perhaps they look like a friendly notification from UPS about a package delivery. They may even ask you to input a secure password to open the attachment, perhaps seeming more legitimate to the average person, but still as destructive.

Cryptolocker has also streamlined the ransom fee process and made it simple, and completely untraceable, for you to pay the heavy ransom to recover your data. This fee can be anywhere from $100 to multiple thousands, and fees are continuing to rise.

Antivirus Systems Are Not Foolproof

You are probably asking yourself, “Why should we be worried about this when MPA has our virus protection and firewalls covered? This is their problem.”

While we work diligently to protect you, the disheartening fact is that the security industry does not yet have a good solution for stopping every one of the many variants of Cryptolocker and other Ransomware from infiltrating networks. Even with the world’s best antivirus systems, some malicious emails will still get through. Contrary to popular belief, Antivirus is not a 100% foolproof solution and never will be. This is because the cyber criminals, who are sometimes among the world’s most skilled hackers and programmers, are creating new variants at astounding speed – think hundreds or thousands every day! No matter how good an antivirus system may be or how many firewalls we put in place, these security systems simply can’t keep up with the sheer speed of new hacks.  As the crooks get smarter and more devious with their tactics, it becomes more difficult for antivirus systems to effectively find and block these malicious emails.

In a nutshell, we do everything we can each and every day to keep you protected with antivirus software, the top firewall systems, etc, but some of these emails may still be getting through. This is everyone’s problem, including ours – some of these infected emails reach our inboxes too! Because of this, we believe it is necessary to spread knowledge of this issue with you and promote greater user awareness and education, which is the most reliable method for preventing a ransomware attack.

Awareness Education for All Users

In some cases, and particularly with Ransomware, education is the ONLY way to prevent some attacks.  Every email user out there (even your kids at home!) needs to be educated about what malicious (phishing) emails looks like and how to avoid them. We repeat, education and user awareness is the most reliable method for preventing a Ransomware attack.

We have covered this topic in a recent blog series on our web site, which we would like to share with you. Though the blog series is aimed at the general population and not our clients specifically, the education tips, resources, and guidelines can and should be used by everyone. We particularly recommend reading the article “How to Identify a Malicious Email” thoroughly, and taking the “Spot the Malicious Emails” quiz when you’re done.

In addition, we offer MPA Networks as a resource to you for implementing user awareness and education programs in your office. We would be happy to come in for one-on-one user training lunch meetings, give a demonstration to your office employees, and help you determine the most effective methods for spreading better awareness among your staff.

What if we get Infected?

In many cases, you can recover from a Ransomware attack with a comprehensive backup/disaster recovery system like MPA Network’s Network SafetyNet.

SafetyNet Can Save the Day

Red and white colored life preserver hanging on a wooden wall

Even though SafetyNet is a reactive system, which will not prevent a Ransomware attack, it can save the day should you ever be a victim of one. SafetyNet allows us to restore your server and files to a point in time before the attack occurred, and in most cases can prevent you from paying the ransom fee to recover your data. Several of our clients have already used SafetyNet to save them thousands of dollars and recover their business processes when they were hit with Cryptolocker. As the price of the ransom rises, it makes considerable sense for our clients who are not yet using SafetyNet to consider adding it to their security arsenal.

Ransomware and Cryptolocker are growing in scale and impact, but with the right knowledge and skills, you can effectively protect yourself and your business.

Please get in touch with us with your questions or for any additional information.

Posted in: Cyber and Data Security