RCOR Technologies co-founder and CEO Tim Richter recently joined forces with Peter Nikolaidis, founder and President of Cambridge’s Paradigm Consulting Company and Adam Bell, President of Nashville’s Sublime Computer Services for a webinar that took a comprehensive look at the risks and challenges businesses face today with regards to cyber security. All three of these gentleman have decades of experience in the IT security world.

The main focus of the webinar was on ransomware, a particularly nasty strain of malware. Tim Richter began the presentation by defining this threat. Ransomware works by encrypting files on an infected system or server and locking users out. The only way to regain access to your data is to pay the hacker for the decryption key. The type of encryption being used by these hackers is virtually impossible to crack without the key, leaving businesses with no choice but to pay the ransom demand and hope that the hacker does in fact return their data.

Ransomware typically gains access to a system through an infected email attachment, pop-ups, infected ads, or malicious websites, and can quickly spread to any data that can be reached from the initial infection point. The frequency of these cyber attacks has risen dramatically, from 180,000 in 2014/2015 to 700,000 in 2015/2016, with experts expecting this number to double by the end of the year.

Peter Nikolaidis explained that there are ways to defend against these threats, a lot of which are basic steps that many businesses aren’t taking, like ensuring that the latest software updates and patches are being applied to their systems. These updates can help to close security gaps in your programs, applications, and operating system.

Restricting system and network access for employees that don’t require full access can limit the way an infection spreads inside your network. Ransomware can’t infect files that it can’t reach. For this same reason, compartmentalizing the data stored in your network can offer protection from an infection.

Standard antivirus and antimalware programs are only effective against threats that are already known, and can be recognized. Most antivirus and antimalware programs protect your system by blacklisting known threats. A more advanced and effective approach is to instead ‘whitelist’ only the programs and applications a particular system needs to run in order for staff to complete tasks, and block everything else.

Effective and ongoing training for employees that allows them to spot potential threats and avoid them is a security measure that is woefully underused. Your staff should be your first line of defence against phishing scams and malware, but instead is consistently a business’ biggest weakness. Phishing scams work as well as they do because users just don’t know any better. A strong email spam filter can help lower this particular risk as well.

Adam Bell stepped in to discuss the importance of a having a rock solid backup system in place. This is important not only in the case of a ransomware infection, but to protect your business against data loss caused by hardware failure or human error. In the event of a ransomware infection, the only way to protect your backup is to ensure that it’s not accessible to your business’ users or administrators. If anyone in your office can reach your backup directly, so can the infection.

Not all data backups are created equal. Ideally, your backup will provide your business with fast recovery of lost or damaged files, a virtual server in the event of hardware failure, remote offsite storage, and have around the clock monitoring of all of its functions. These data backups should be completed daily.

The webinar concluded with a reminder that your best defense is simply to prepare for the worst. Even if you do everything right and take every precaution, there is still a risk that your business could be affected by a cyber attack. Having a plan in place to minimize the damage and restore your data quickly can make a huge difference in how well your business recovers from a cyber attack.

Want to know more about the IT security solutions we offer? Contact us today at tim@rcor.com or (919) 313-9355 . We’re the trusted IT experts for businesses in Raleigh .