In a recent devastating cyber attack, southwestern Ontario's healthcare system fell prey to the malicious actions of the Daixin cybercriminal group. Striking five major hospitals, including Bluewater Health and Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, the attack exposed a database with information from 5.6 million patient visits and the social insurance numbers of 1,446 employees. The incident, occurring on October 23, resulted in system outages affecting patient records and email services. Despite the severity, hospitals and TransForm, their IT and payroll administration organization, have steadfastly refused to pay the ransom. This alarming breach highlights the critical importance of robust ransomware prevention, urging immediate action to protect against potential cyber threats. Explore the comprehensive prevention strategy below to fortify your defenses in the face of evolving cyber risks.
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Is your important data vulnerable? Ransomware is a type of virus infection that affects individuals, small and large businesses, and governments alike. Read on to better understand what ransomware is, how it can infect your computer, and what you can do to prevent it.
The FBI defines ransomware as “…a type of malicious software, or malware, that prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems, or networks and demands you pay a ransom for their return. Ransomware attacks can cause costly disruptions to operations and the loss of critical information and data.” Why did I choose the FBI as my source for this definition? Ransomware is a huge problem for individuals, small and large businesses, and governments alike, and every day new ransomware viruses are being created or modified so its always a game of “catch up” for computer users, anti-virus companies, I.T. departments, and government cybersecurity agencies.
Going with the FBI again as a reliable source, “You can unknowingly download ransomware onto a computer by opening an email attachment, clicking an ad, following a link, or even visiting a website that's embedded with malware Once the code is loaded on a computer, it will lock access to the computer itself or data and files stored there. More menacing versions can encrypt files and folders on local drives, attached drives, and even networked computers. Most of the time, you don’t know your computer has been infected. You usually discover it when you can no longer access your data, or you see computer messages letting you know about the attack and demanding ransom payments.”
is the key to stopping ransomware. Once your computer is infected and your files are all encrypted, it’s too late. And we definitely do not recommend paying the ransom because ransom holders rarely ever provide the key to unencrypt your data. So here are some things you can do prevent Ransomware from infecting your computer.
If your Windows user profile type is currently set to Administrator, change it to Standard. By default, Windows makes you an Administrator when you first create your account. But having admin permission enabled all the time can open the door for viruses. Viruses are a program, and most programs require admin permissions to install, so if your user profile type is Administrator then the virus can just go ahead and install without asking. But if your user profile type is Standard then you will see a message pop up requesting Admin permission whenever software is installed. This can provide a red flag to virus activity if a message suddenly pops up asking for admin permission when you aren’t actually installing any software! To change your user profile to Standard, you first need to create another user profile that you can use for Administrator purposes with a strong password, then you can change your own account profile to Standard type. Now, anytime your computer needs an administrator password to do something your computer will ask you first before it proceeds. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s a much bigger hassle to lose all of your data and have to reinstall Windows after a virus infection.
And we’re not talking about the Free version either. Free antivirus software is better than nothing, but it only provides basic protection. To make sure you’re as protected as you can be, purchase an antivirus software subscription and install the full paid version of whatever antivirus software you prefer. Most AV software will automatically update itself and its definition files, but it’s still a good idea to check every so often to see if it is up to date. New viruses are made every day so keeping your AV software up-to-date is an important part of the prevention strategy. If you need help with installing AV software on your computer, then give our service techs a call at 519-660-6160 ext 6177 to set up an appointment for us to install the antivirus software for you.
Attachments are the number one way that viruses enter your computer, so do not click on any attachments before you do a little investigating first. Start with the sender’s email address. At first it may look legit, but a second glance can reveal addresses that are a little off, like email@example.com. No that’s not a typo, but I’m glad you caught it! If the email address looks legit, continue to be suspicious because legitimate email addresses can be spoofed or faked. Second, look at the email content itself and look for clues like bad spelling and poor grammar. Also be very suspicious of wording that urges you to click a link right away. These links often lead to a phishing site where someone is waiting to gather (steal) your credit card information, but they can also lead you to a site where your computer can get infected. Lastly, if everything looks legit but you’re still not quite sure, call or text the sender to confirm they sent the email. On the other hand, if you are sure the email is from a spam or junk sender, then add the sender to your Blocked Senders list in your email program so they won’t darken your Inbox again.
Even with a good AV program installed and your best preventative efforts, sometimes your computer can still get infected by ransomware and your files become encrypted. Now what? A good backup solution can’t prevent ransomware, but it can save your data. So, make sure you have a USB backup drive that does scheduled backups at least once a day. But even then, you need to be careful. If your USB backup drive is connected to your computer when ransomware strikes, your backup drive can also be infected! So it’s best to have 2 backups, a local one to a USB drive, and a cloud backup like OneDrive, G-Drive or Dropbox. This may sound like a lot of work, but our technicians can help you setup a backup solution that is simple and painless. Call us today at 519-660-6160 ext 6177 to discuss our solutions that can help prevent and minimize the damage from ransomware.