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A Better Partnership


Apr 2016
April 19, 2016

Proactive Steps Your Business Can Take to Reduce the Threat of Ransomware

In our previous article, “Ransomware on the Rise,” we wrote about the newest form of online extortion and how it’s affecting businesses nationwide. This type of extortion is becoming widely popular due to the large payoff hackers are receiving. However, like other attacks, you can take proactive steps to avoid a ransomware situation. Here are 5 steps you can take right now to reduce the threat of ransomware:
  • Back up your data. Although this seems obvious, far too often there is no backup available or the backup process was never tested and didn’t work. Removable storage is widely available, inexpensive and simple to use. Home users should create a backup, disconnect the device and store it in a safe place. For cloud-based backup services, be aware of the chance that the victim’s endpoint could have copied encrypted files to the cloud, too. Some cloud-based backup services offer to restore the most recent versions of files.
  • Use a trustworthy antivirus software and a firewall. Maintaining a strong firewall and keeping your security software up to date are critical. It is important to use antivirus software from a reputable company because the marketplace is saturated with fake antivirus software.
  • Enable your pop-up blocker. Pop-ups are a prime tactic used by cyber criminals, so simply avoid even accidentally clicking on an infected popup. If a pop-up appears, click on the “x” in the right-hand corner. The buttons within a pop-up might have been reprogrammed by the criminals, so do not click on them.
  • Exercise caution. Never open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if you think it looks safe. Do not open unsolicited emails or unexpected attachments—even from known people. Most ransomware campaigns start with a phishing email that contains a link or a certain type of attachment. For every ten emails sent by attackers, statistics have shown that at least one will be successful. 
  • Keep system patches up to date. Many of the vulnerabilities commonly abused by ransomware can be patched. Keep up to date with patches to operating systems, Java, Adobe Reader, Flash and applications. Have a patching procedure in place and verify if the patches were applied successfully.
If your PC does come under attack, experts advise taking these steps:
  • Turn your computer off. You should turn off your infected computer and disconnect it from the network. This is important because an infected computer can potentially take down other computers sharing the same network.
  • Be cautious of fake fix it sites. Use another computer to research details about the type of attack. But be aware that cyber criminals are devious enough to create fake sites, perhaps touting their own fake antivirus software or their de-encryption program.
  • Take your computer to IT professionals. Ransomware is a sophisticated virus created by extremely competent and tech-savvy culprits. Disabling it may require the help of equally knowledgeable professionals. Also, IT professionals have access to free and paid tools and services to clean your afflicted computer.
  • Don't pay. There are a number of good reasons to not pay the ransom, but the reality is that you may not have another choice. Accordingly, our advice is to not pay if you can possibly avoid it. Victims who opt to pay are not alone. In a recent BitDefender study, 50% of the ransomware victims said they paid, and 40% of the respondents said they would pay if they were ever in that situation.
  • Contacting law enforcement agencies. Consult with an attorney regarding whether and how to contact the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
These are just a few precautions your organization can put in place to avoid becoming a ransomware target and steps you should take if you become a ransomware victim. Of course, if you’d like to discuss this topic in more detail or have other information technology questions, please contact Janet Knaus at or 616.752.2150, Nate Steed at or 616.752.2723 or any other member of the Information Technology Transactions Group at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.


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