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What is ransomware?

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Even if you’re one of the many who find cyber security as invigorating as tax returns or root canal work, ransomware is probably a term that you’ve become vaguely familiar with. It’s a frequent flyer in the headlines of late, and the CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre described it as ‘the biggest online threat to the UK’. But what is it, and do you need to care?

Ransomware is essentially malicious software, which when loaded onto your device, generally prevents you from accessing your systems, and demands payment. The US treasury assessed that ransomware payments amounted to around $1.2 billion in 2021 alone, setting an unfortunate record which roughly trebled the sum from the previous year. And whilst it’s the big business and public sector attacks that tend to make the headlines, it can and does affect anyone.

The impact can be devastating. With your systems inaccessible, business grinds to a halt. Often, criminals threaten to cause reputational damage by leading your data, including confidential client issues or intellectual property. But while estimates from cybersecurity company Sophos estimate that 46% of companies pay the ransom, only 4% of them recover all their data.

So how do you protect yourself? You need a sound and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, and you’ll find some comprehensive guidance on the National Cyber Security Centre website.

But for ease, we’d like to suggest a quick top five of things to consider.

1) Train your staff, so that they know how to avoid inadvertently downloading malicious software via scam emails and the like. There are various free ways of doing this, and we’re happy to signpost them.

2) Take technical means to limit what people can download onto your systems – we know some people who can help if you want to talk!

3) Make sure you’re regularly backing up data, so that you can continue operating if the worst happens.

4) Have a response plan in place, so that you can contact staff, customers and business contacts if the worst happens

5) Know who you’re going to call for technical support – and if you don’t, give us a shout and we can help.


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