Ransomware is an umbrella term for a range of malware programs that effectively hold your data “hostage”  by encrypting your files and demanding fees in order to release the encryption key. It’s a pernicious form of cybercrime that preys on our increasing reliance on networked devices and digital assets. 

The inscrutable power of ransomware lies not only in its technological sophistication, but the psychology of its implementation: by the time users are informed of the attack, it’s often too late. A message window pops up on your desktop saying that your files are now encrypted (with some forms of ransomware able shut you out of your device or network altogether). A timer is triggered, and payment is demanded within a set time frame or your files will be deleted. Time frames range from two to four days, and ransom amounts tend to be around $300-500. The short window of action coupled with the relatively low ransom rate causes the majority of victims to simply pay up. Cooperation may seem like the only option, but while perpetrators tend to release the device once payment is received, you are still left vulnerable to future attacks. Unsurprisingly, many hackers don’t honor their word at all. 

The CryptoLocker Virus was the first example to gain mainstream attention, and along with the similarly designed CryptoWall virus, small business networks are particularly vulnerable. The viruses function like most ransomware, targeting local files like photos, documents, etc., but once your files are encrypted, the virus goes a step further by seeking out networked files and shared servers—basically any data you have access to. The ransom letter states that the key used to encrypt your data will be destroyed, in which case your files are unrecoverable. A single oversight can bring down your entire IT infrastructure. 

The best form of protection against ransomware of all kinds, is of course, prevention. This is especially important for small businesses. Ransomware tends to be implemented through email, disguised as notifications from large online business or delivery services that may look perfectly reasonable to an employee or coworker. Security services from Contoured Solutions provide prevention on two levels: tailoring and installing software suites that specifically target ransomware, as well as implementing security policies on your network that customize levels of access for different users. CS utilizes HitmanPro Alert with CryptoGuard, the first security software that specifically targets ransomware by universally preventing spontaneous encryption from ransomware viruses. In many cases CryptoGuard can even reverse encryptions already in process. No amount of software is a 100% guarantee against infection, which is why Contoured Solutions offers consultation and implementation of common-sense security policies that help protect your network and mitigate damage in the event of a virus attack. Giving every user or employee full access to your network may save a bit of time on the front end, but it leaves your entire business exponentially more vulnerable to viruses, causing much worse problems down the line. Contoured Solutions security services tailor individual access to specific, relevant files in your network, thus limiting the amount of data at stake for any given user who might unwittingly download a virus. Network access can be customized and altered at any time to reflect shifting roles within your business. 

By using a multi-level approach to ransomware prevention—with breakthrough software, structural prevention, and in-person consultation—Contoured Solutions creates a holistic approach to protecting your business infrastructure, allowing you to focus on what’s important: running your business.