May 31, 2017
What a week it has been for organizations around the world. I am sure you are all familiar with WannaCry, a ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries. If you are completely unfamiliar with ransomware, let us define it for you.
Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts your files until a ransom is paid. In exchange for the ransom, your files will be decrypted. In this case, attackers wanted to be paid in Bitcoin, a form of digital currency. In most cases, the ransom will also state that all files will be deleted if not paid within a certain time frame. Thus, making it extremely difficult for organizations to decide whether to pay, or wait out the attack.
Why are we talking about this?
Being an organization that resides in the world of information technology, information governance, enterprise content management, and security, we thought it would be a good idea to address the subject a bit.
First, we can’t stress enough how important it is that you follow your organization’s information governance initiatives. Since ransomware is usually attached to an email or is something you have to actively initiate the download of, we urge you to be cautious of anything that comes through your email that you are not certain you have asked for. If you run into a situation where you receive an email with something attached, but you are unsure who sent it, or what it is, talk to your IT department immediately.
Secondly, it is vital that your computer systems are up to date. This particular ransomware attack targeted users of unsupported Microsoft OS versions. Most of the victims were using Windows XP. As a technology company, we know that updating systems can become expensive, but it is part of the maintenance and security of your organization.
What should I do if this happens to me?
Well, most security firms and professionals say that you shouldn’t pay the ransom. We know that your files are important and computers have become vital to the success of an organization, however, paying just adds fuel to the flame. You give the attackers the control, and there is no guarantee that you will actually get your files back. The WannaCry attack had no clear way of saying whether payment was processed, and on the other side of it, the attackers had no way of knowing who paid.
To avoid ransomware attacks from happening to you, sticking to your information governance plan is going to be your best bet. This involves training users to recognize when something is fishy and making sure they know how to deal with such situations. Another part of IG is to make sure your operating systems are always up to date and remember to be cautious of opening or downloading attachments from emails from unfamiliar senders.
These things might sound simple, but this latest attack has proved that it can happen to anyone, anywhere.