When the cyber plague has hit

Every 40 seconds, cyber criminals smuggle ransomware into companies. Once infiltrated, the only thing that helps is a time-consuming installation of backups – unless you rely on trustworthy cloud storage.

Text: Ann-Kristin Koch,

“Pay the ransom or we will block your data” – this is what cyber criminals more and more often demand of companies. With ransomware – malware that infects computers and encrypts the data in it –, highly professional, organised cyber gangs have extorted billion-dollar sums from companies every 40 seconds in the past year alone.

Prevention and use of the cloud

Ransomware is often smuggled in through e-mail attachments. If these infected attachments are opened, the malware starts in the background. In some versions of ransomware, infected computers send e-mails to the entire address book automatically. This means that e-mails with malicious software do not come only from unknown senders. Ransomware encrypts the business data of companies as well as entire network drives and renders them unusable. That costs money!

Current anti-virus programs as well as a responsible dealing with e-mail attachments and links can protect against contamination. Using e-mail programs or the browser only with virtual machines also prevents ransomware from being able to lodge itself in the system.

When it’s already too late...

But what can be done once you’ve already been hit? Don’t pay – call the police and get them involved, counsels MELANI. After that, the only thing that usually helps is setting up a data backup and installing it from scratch. Or the cloud. Because those who rely on trustworthy and secure online storage such as Swisscom Storebox can not only dispense with time-consuming manual backups – by clicking, they can retrieve the last version of the documents. Storebox creates so-called snapshots every few minutes, so a backup is made of files that have been modified during this time. If ransomware has encrypted documents stored online, companies can return to the last version of a document via these snapshots. This way, companies reduce the risk of data loss in comparison to a backup, because the time span between the infection and the last “clean” version of the document is shorter.

Thus the danger has not been warded off per se, but the negative impact has been limited. Currently, an entire industry is emerging that offers ransomware as a service without having to have extensive previous technical knowledge. And so it was no surprise to experts that, just a few days before the official inauguration of Donald Trump, nearly 70 percent of the surveillance cameras in the streets of Washington were paralysed by ransomware. The cyber plague is advancing. It’s smart to hedge one’s bets and take preventative action via cyber antibiotics.

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