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Published 18 February 2016

Adrian Fowler

Adrian Fowler
Managing Director

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Another attack of the Ransomware variety

We are seeing this more and more. We get a phone call from a customer we haven’t dealt with before and he says “Do you know how to unencrypt files encrypted by a virus?”

Where do you begin? This particular virus is known as Ransomware and uses a 2048-bit cipher suite that even the world’s biggest super computers couldn’t crack in ‘reasonable’ time.

What is reasonable time? To give you a benchmark, a cypher suite of 2048 bits, using a standard computer, e.g. an AMD 2.2GHz Opteron Processor with 2GB memory, would take 6.4 Quadrillion years. That is 4.2 billion x 1.5 million years. Assuming average time. Of course it could take 5 minutes if we hit the right code early on in the attempt.

No is the answer to the question.

But we do know how to prevent it, and we do know how to recover from it should for whatever reason the preventative methods fail.

To get an idea on actual costs per business of each attack, let’s look at the known costs taken from previous examples of real life attacks. The average cost to small business in a survey conducted by the National Small Business Association was £8700.

“UK businesses expect cyber attack recovery to cost at least £1.2m”

Source: ComputerWeekly.com

It is important to be clear, not one of our existing customers have suffered from an attack. It is customers who come to us for help, who we have had no involvement with previously who we are seeing suffering here.

I guess one could say the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are doing us a favour, “look at all the new business you are getting”, but it’s not nice to see someone get blackmailed in this way, and this can happen to anyone, even IT companies who have all the bells and whistles already in place. No one can afford to be smug in this game. There’s always someone cleverer than you out there.

Preventative measures to secure your data

The idea behind protecting your systems from virus attack is to stop these infections getting to do their worst in the first place. If your antivirus solution is up to date, then any known infections out there will (hopefully) be blocked, quarantined or deleted before being able to do anything sinister.

This usually works quite well most of the time. In fact it’s safe to say a good antivirus solution like BitDefender which has yet again won the best performing AV solution for the year and is always the editor’s choice on most credible review sites would block up to 100% of known viruses.

But here is the caveat – Blocking known viruses. To protect yourself against an attack by a new strain of virus which is unknown to any antivirus solution is going to require an affective backup solution.

Why? Because the antivirus solution is probably going to fail to block an unknown virus particularly if it’s been written by someone cleverer than the guys who write the antivirus signatures. Incidentally these guys are the same. They start off writing viruses and end up working for antivirus companies and get paid a lot of cash for doing so.

What does an affective backup solution do?

It gives you the ability to recover very quickly and painlessly from an attack. If you have a computer, or worse, if you have lots of computers on a network and you own a business you are going to be attacked at some point. It’s a statistical certainty. It will happen. You will be cruising along thinking everything is going well, very smoothly, and then suddenly, your IT will be infected.

You probably believe you have a good backup strategy. In fact, you’ll be convinced you have. Are you willing to bet everything you own on this? Are you really 100% convinced your backup is as affective as it will need to be when you become infected?

I wouldn’t be writing this article if I thought your backup system was working. In fact it was because yet another business we didn’t know before has become infected, lost all their data, sacked their IT guy and called on us. This has happened countless times in the last 12 months.

So, how are you going to protect yourself from a hindsight moment?

Like the credit crunch of 2008, we all now know why we became so broke, and arguably those in-the-know should have chirped up to prevent it before the flying stuff hit the fan. And more arguably the politicians could have done more to regulate it. This has happened many times over the last century yet we never learn.

So, imagine what it feels like to lose all your data. Imagine what it will do to your business when your customers walk, your debts go unpaid both ways and your cash dries up. If you knew it was about to happen tomorrow, what would you do for the rest of today?

Possibly give us a call?

Here’s the number, 01858 455426.

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