If you're unfortunate enough to be the victim of a ransomware attack, there are basically only three options open to you. Ransomware is a type of computer virus that kidnaps your data and holds it hostage for money. It has become increasingly common attacking governments and all manner of business and non-for profit institutions. These are often automated attacks that are broadly distributed, so even if you're a small business you're still at risk. Too many small businesses think they're "under the radar" and in fact, about half of ransomware attacks hit small businesses.
Why is ransomware so nasty? Because it steals the most important thing your business possesses. Data. It's not about the value of your data to someone else, its about the value of your data to you. Worse, once infected there isn’t generally a way out. No one can “disinfect” your machine. You aren't going to be able to call in IT support to solve the problem. Basically, you have three options.
- Pay the ransom. This payment is usually via bitcoin (a digital currency). Some ransomware viruses even provide help lines if you're having trouble. Of course there are no guarantees your will get access to your data - these are thieves you’re dealing with. We strongly advise against this unless there is no other option. Be sure to make a copy of all data before taking any recovery steps.
- Don’t pay and lose your data - This has its obvious downsides, unless…
- You have a safe, clean backup. In that case, you are stuck with the nuisance of restoring your data with the backup, but you aren’t out any money. However, this comes with a caveat: your backups have to be clean. The problem with ransomware viruses is that just making backups may not be sufficient to protect your data, as the backups can be infected also.
As you can see, the first two options aren’t very favorable solutions. The only real defense against an attack is the third option. You have to be prepared ahead of time with a safe, segregated backup. Also, plan in advance to know the difference between a recovery point objective (how much data you may lose) and a recovery time objective (how much time it will take to recover). Be sure to get the advice of a specialist on how to protect your data from this very serious threat to your business. Ask Ekaru about our down-time calculator!