Ransomware attacks impacting organisations and everyday people

Article contributed by CERT NZ

Ransomware has been getting a lot of news coverage lately with a series of attacks on US organisations which have locked employees out of systems, and significantly disrupted day-to-day operations and services. With the attacks hitting organisations like hospitals, judicial courts and schools, it’s not only the organisations that are negatively impacted, but also the lives of the everyday people who rely on them.

A malicious software attack wreaking havoc on people’s lives may sound like the stuff of Hollywood scriptwriters, but in reality these kind of attacks affect regular New Zealanders all the time. In 2018, CERT NZ, New Zealand’s Computer Emergency Response Team, had 58 reports of New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses being impacted by ransomware attacks.

Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that can get into a computer system in a number of ways, like someone clicking on a bad link, or through out-of-date software that has weaknesses in it. Once the ransomware has infected the computer, it encrypts files so they can’t be read or accessed. Then a ‘ransom’ is demanded for the files to be restored, with costs varying from a few hundred dollars, to the hundreds of thousands.

“We don’t recommend people pay ransoms to get their files back,” says Declan Ingram, Manager, Operations at CERT NZ. “Although it might sound like the quickest way to get back on your feet, paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the files back. If you pay, you open yourself and organisation up to further attacks.”

It’s not only large organisations that are affected by cyber security issues like this one. Anyone from individuals and small businesses right through to large businesses can be affected. The good news is just a few simple steps will make it easy to get back on your feet quickly (and keep that money in the bank).

  • Ransomware infections can happen when you’re using old software or older versions of operating systems. To protect yourself, keep your operating system and your apps up-to-date. Update to new versions when they’re available. You can set this up to happen automatically with major operating systems like Windows and MacOS, and common applications like Office.
  • If your files have been encrypted, you can get them back without paying the ransom by making sure you have backups that are separate from your network. Make sure you back up your files regularly. This includes the files on your computers, phones and any other devices. You can:
  • do an 'offline' or 'cold' backup. Back up the data to an external hard drive and then remove the hard drive from your device
  • do a cloud backup to Dropbox or a similar online hosting service.

Back up your data

  • Ransomware, like other types of malicious software, can sometimes be identified by antivirus software because it has a unique signature that the software can identify. Install antivirus on your computer if you don’t already have it, and update it regularly.
  • Ransomware can sometimes get into your system through your network connection. Talk to your IT provider, whether they’re on your staff or outsourced, to make sure they install a firewall on your network to stop traffic from untrustworthy sources getting into your computer.

For more information on how to keep your business safe, check out the CERT NZ website: www.cert.govt.nz/

If you’ve been affected report to CERT NZ www.cert.govt.nz/report

Vodafone have a number of security solutions to keep your business safe. To see how we can help keep your data and devices safe from cyber threats, loss or damage .

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