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Sponsor Content: Stop ransomware from ruining your business

Sponsor Content: Stop ransomware from ruining your business
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

Here on Komando.com, we talk about ransomware repeatedly - and there's a reason for that. It's a growing trend, and when it comes to cyberattacks, it's one of hackers' new favorites.

If you're running a business, chances are you rely on computers, whether it's for finances, transactions, inventory management, making documents or to run business-specific software. If something were to happen to a critical computer, you might be out of business for days or even permanently.

But that's what ransomware does. It allows hackers to hold your computer files hostage. The only sure way to get your computer files back is to pay the hackers a ransom, hence the name. The ransom can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Some viruses will raise the cost of the ransom over time to convince you to pay right away.

You might think that ransomware is just a phase, and that hackers will move on to something else really soon. That might become true eventually, but right now, there's no end in sight. In fact, cybersecurity experts have found that ransomware attacks are increasing. The reason for this is because ransomware works, and hackers know it.

At least one silver lining, if you want to call it that, is that paying the ransom usually does get you your files back. However, you might not be able to afford the money, or the lost time.

That's why our sponsor Carbonite wanted to share steps you can take now to avoid getting ransomware on your business computers. In this article, we're going to tell you how to avoid ransomware in the first place, and a way to recover quickly if you do get it. With these simple steps, you'll have peace of mind that your business won't be the next victim.

1. Stop ransomware at a distance

Your best option to defeat ransomware is to keep it off your computers in the first place. Security software is essential for this as it will block most attempts by hackers to slip viruses on to your system. If a virus does get downloaded, security software can often stop the virus before it causes too much damage.

Keeping your operating system and web browser up to date is also critical. Security holes in these areas can let hackers bypass your security software to slip files on to your system. Learn how to install the latest updates for Windows, and how to make your web browser hacker-proof.

Even with those areas updated, you still might not be safe. Click here to test your computer security to make sure there are no holes.

Of course, even the walls of Troy can fall if you let a Greek-built horse inside. You and your employees need to be on guard against tricky phishing scams that ask you to download unsolicited email attachments or click on unknown links. Again, security software will help, but you don't want to tempt fate. Click here to learn how phishing scams work, and how to avoid them. Also, learn how to spot disguised malicious files you might open without thinking twice.

2. Stop ransomware before it runs

Despite your best efforts, you might end up with a ransomware virus on a computer anyway. That doesn't, however, mean that the game is over. In fact, there's a simple way you can stop the ransomware before it starts.

Before ransomware can activate and encrypt your files, it has to "call home" first. This involves contacting a hacker-controlled server and getting a unique encryption key. This is what lets you decrypt your files after you've paid the ransom.

Just as an aside, it might seem odd that hackers would go to this much trouble to make sure you can get your files back. However, if people couldn't reliably get their files back, then no one would pay the ransom. This is why the hackers behind CryptoLocker, the predecessor of CryptoWall, even set up a legitimate tech support system to help people who paid the ransom recover their files when they had trouble.

The good news is that if you can block the ransomware from phoning home, it won't run. You could do this by pulling the Internet cable as fast as you can, but you might not always make it in time. Fortunately, you can just install the free service OpenDNS.

We've talked about OpenDNS before as a way to speed up your Internet while also blocking adult sites and other objectionable material on an entire network of computers and gadgets. Well, it turns out that OpenDNS is part of a group working to combat ransomware, and it automatically blocks your computer from communicating with all known and suspected ransomware servers.

Still, what happens in a worst case scenario of a ransomware virus taking over your computer?

3. Have a backup plan

No security is foolproof and a brand new, malicious ransomware bug might find its way on to your system. Is that the end of the line?

If the ransomware you've gotten is older, such as TeslaCrypt, CoinVault or the original CryptoLocker, most security companies can clean them out and decrypt your files. So, definitely do some research. For a newer type of ransomware, you'll want to have a backup plan in place.

And when we say that, we mean a literal backup plan. In fact, ransomware or not, you should always have a backup; you never know when your computers might decide to crash and set back or wipe out your business.

Getting back to ransomware, having copies of your important files means you can wipe your computer, get rid of the virus and start over without losing a bit of your priceless information. Sure it's still a little hassle, but it won't set you back a bundle of money.

Our preferred backed service is our sponsor Carbonite. It automatically backs up your important files to Carbonite's secure servers. That way, they're safe from hackers and you can access your files from any computer while you're getting your system up and running again.

Restoring files after wiping your drive is a snap, and thanks to Carbonite's advanced file versioning, you'll always have a copy of your files that is free from ransomware. Of course, you can prevent Carbonite from backing up the encrypted files by freezing your backup as soon as the ransomware hits. Simply right-click the Carbonite icon in the taskbar of the affected computer and choose "Freeze Backup."

Carbonite also has a helpful Ransomware Preparedness and Recovery Guide that you can download to see if the data on your business or personal computer could survive a ransomware attack. Click here for the free download.

Carbonite is the easiest way to protect your important files from computer crashes, natural disasters, thieves and killer viruses. Don't leave your information unprotected a minute longer. Click here to start your 15-day risk-free trial of Carbonite today, and get peace of mind with two months of free service when you decide to buy.

This post was sponsored by Carbonite. Protect your files with the better backup plan. Get two months free and a 15-day free trial. Use promo code KIM.
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