Don’t let your business be held to ransom this Halloween

Richard Grace of Mach5 IT has some advice for you now that that All Hallows’ Eve – or, Halloween – is fast approaching.  It’s a time when pranksters, trickery and scariness abound, and the IT world has endured more than its share of all of these – some of it benign, but much of it malign.

Halloween has, in recent years, brought out the worst in the hacking and criminally-minded fraternity who, acting with malice aforethought, have launched a variety of attacks against unsuspecting – and often unprepared – businesses and individuals with an ever-more sophisticated series of viruses, malware, spyware, trojans and ransomware.

In an age when trick-or-treat has migrated from the United States to, seemingly, conquer the world it’s wise to remember that preventing cunningly disguised local children from playing fairly innocuous tricks on you is as simple as handing over some lollies (i.e. sweets – UK, candy –US) and watching them troop off to the front door of their next, not altogether unsuspecting, ‘victim’.

Rescuing your computer, and the data that forms the lifeblood of your organisation, from the grip of the latest state-of-the-art ransomware is unlikely to be as quick, easy or inexpensive.

Some threats are real: as we’ve discussed previously, ransomware is a real and growing (as at June 2013 McAfee, the security software company, was aware of over 250,000 unique examples ofransomware) threat coming in a variety of forms and variants.  Typically designed to restrict access to your device(s) and data until you’ve paid a ransom to undo the restriction, they generally infect a system through a downloaded file from an email you’ve received.  Some types will encrypt data held on your device, or in your system, only providing a key to decrypt when the ransom demanded has been paid.  Payments often utilise difficult-to-trace methods such as wire transfer, online payment voucher, premium-rate text messages or one of the emerging digital currencies e.g. Bitcoin.

Other threats are merely hoaxes: it’s important to also be aware that there have been many examples of hoaxes designed to create fear in the recipient, but which haven’t actually harmed an ‘infected’ device or data.  One such example involved a spam email warning of the ‘Trickor1.exe’ file being spread by email and wiping the unsuspecting recipient’s hard-drive.  In this case there was no harmful file and it was just scareware.  However, future occurrences may pose a genuine threat.

Whether you’re being targeted by a real threat or a hoax, it’s good to know that your IT security is being taken care of.  If you want to be sure that your firewall is in place, your anti-virus software is up-to-date and that your business data and networks are fully protected, talk to the experts at Mach5 IT Solutions and avoid being held to ransom…by anyone other than a pint-sized Spiderman or Princess Elsa of Arendelle this Halloween.