Ransomware and the recent attack on the nhs: how to protect yourself from cyber attacks

The NHS has suffered a major cyber attack that hit hospitals across the country, leading to patients being turned away from A&E and some operations being cancelled. Ransomware is a kind of cyber attack that involves hackers taking control of a computer or mobile device and demanding payment. The attackers download malicious software onto a device and then use it to encrypt the victim’s information. They threaten to block access to the files until a ransom is paid. It is common for criminals to ask for a fee between 0.3 and 1 Bitcoins (£400 – 1,375).  Such attacks are mostly waged against businesses, but can also affect individuals. The malware was made available online on 14 April through a dump by a group called Shadow Brokers, which claimed last year to have stolen a cache of “cyber weapons” from the National Security Agency (NSA) As soon as the Shadow Brokers dump came out everyone [in the security industry] realised that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to install a patch, especially if they used an operating system like Windows XP [which many NHS computers still use], for which there is no patch. Security researchers with Kaspersky Lab have recorded more than 45,000 attacks in 74 countries, including the UK, Russia, Ukraine, India, China, Italy, and Egypt. In Spain, major companies including telecommunications firm Telefónica were infected. By Friday evening, the ransomware had spread to the United States and South America, though Europe and Russia remained the hardest hit, according to security researchers Malware Hunter Team. The Russian interior ministry says about 1,000 computers have been affected.

Skye Cloud as standard regularly backs up our systems, applies relevant windows updates, antivirus signature updates and we protect the perimeter by scanning email for viruses/Trojans etc. We are using Maxmail to protect our clients from phishing, malware, and other email-borne threats. Maxmail runs a unique combination of antivirus and anti-spam engines to check every incoming, outgoing, and internal email and to quarantine any threats. Additionally, with real-time pattern-based threat recognition, we can detect emerging threats and help you stay protected. The result? Better email security. Additionally we use ESET to protect our desktops and servers. This is a comprehensive endpoint protection for Windows, including superior detection and virtualization support eliminating all threat types and supports VMs with exploit blocker and advanced memory scanner to neutralize sophisticated threats.

How ever users need to play their part. If items do get in, users must not open ANYTHING suspicious. We are always on the phone to ask advise.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from ransomware.

1 Back up your files

The greatest damage people suffer from a ransomware attack is the loss of files, including pictures and documents. The best protection against ransomware is to back up all of the information and files on your devices in a completely separate system. A good place to do this is on an external hard drive that isn’t connected to the internet. This means that if you suffer an attack you won’t lose any information to the hackers. Businesses often save copies of their data to external servers, use your cloud service provider and your back up won’t be affected if your main internal network is attacked.

2 Be suspicious of emails, websites and apps

For ransomware to work hackers need to download malicious software onto a victims computer. This is then used to launch the attack and encrypt files. The most common ways for the software to be installed on a victim’s device is through phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites, and questionable apps and programs. People should always exercise caution when opening unsolicited emails or visiting websites they are unfamiliar with. Never download an app that hasn’t been verified by an official store, and read reviews before installing programs.

3 Use an antivirus program

An age-old computer security tip, antivirus programs can stop ransomware from being downloaded onto computers and can find it when it is. Most antivirus programs can scan files to see if they might contain ransomware before downloading them. They can block secret installations from malicious adverts when you’re browsing the web, and look for malware that may already be on a computer or device. Contact us for advise.

4 Always install updates

Companies often release software updates to fix vulnerabilities that can be exploited to install ransomware. It is therefore advisable to always download the newest version of a software as soon as it is available. On any issues on updates contact your cloud service provider and we will handle the updates.

5 Never pay the ransom

Victims of ransomware attacks are advised to never pay the fee as it encourages attackers and may not result in files being recovered. There are some programs that can help decrypt files. Or, if you have a back up, you can restore your device from that. Check the following linkage for external help: https://www.nomoreransom.org/  “No More Ransom” online resource developed by Europol, Dutch police and industry partners advises that paying the ransom is never recommended, mainly because it does not guarantee a solution to the problem.



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