One of the most important areas of IT in 2016 for both industry specialists and corporate IT users alike is the growing threat of cybercrime, online privacy and security of systems.

Whilst there are still plenty of viruses out there waiting to do damage to both software and hardware, there’s a new breed of malware which is slowly developing and already hitting hard; ransomware.

It’s vital that all companies whether large or small have up to date and robust security measure in place as it’s now more about making money from those affected than attacking and damaging files. IT services in Bristol have the expertise to help but initially it’s wise to know what to look out for and any damage limitation you can action yourself.

What is ransomware

After malware which tracks your movements and viruses which attach to your email contact list comes the much darker threat of ransomware. Making initial appearances over the last few months, ransomware hacks into networks through vulnerable back doors in the server and – true to the name – takes the system and all the contents hostage until a monetary ransom is paid. The attacking software encrypts everything and doesn’t release it until payment is received when usually a unique key code is issued to unlock the encryption.

Ways to stay safe

Alongside ransomware are a range of security issues which can affect the way your computer behaves and how a network operates. Knowledge is key and it’s not vital that you know lots of technical information as the professionals can help with this, but the basics of how to keep your information locked down and away from prying eyes:

  • Keep your antivirus programme up to date
  • Be aware of what a phishing email is
  • Don’t have the same password for different sites
  • Change passwords regularly; mix lower and upper case letters and use numbers
  • Be wary of the personal information you post on social media
  • Look at alternative log in methods such as using a favourite photo as ID

If you’re ever in any doubt as to the validity of a message, tweet or email, don’t click on any links even if you think you know the person who sent it to you. Delete or mark as spam.

Keep your machine clean by always having the most up to date operating systems, web browser and security software; this will ward off the majority of online threats.

How to stop attacks

If you find that your log in or network has been compromised, it’s about acting quickly. Make everyone aware if there are multiple users and talk to the professionals about the possible impact on your systems. Notify all your contacts if you’ve clicked on a spam link in error on email or opened an attachment. Tell them not to open any similarly worded messages from yourself.

Start to scan all machines for malware and action the activity report. If there is a need for network repair, don’t attempt it yourself unless you have the expertise. This is where the need for a regular back up of files is paramount as some or all will be used to replace those lost or damaged.

If you find you can’t log in to an external website, contact the relevant web service immediately to notify them your account has been hacked. They will take steps to stop any thing further happening and help with a new log in and password.

Cybercrime is about being aware, being proactive and having processes and procedures in place to minimise the threat as much as possible. It’s also about regular monitoring and updates and ensuring that all users know the simple steps to staying safe in the virtual world.