On 12th May 2017, the National Health Service (NHS) England had to instruct several hospitals across the United Kingdom had to drive away their patients and cancel the operations, owing to a massive cyber attack called WannaCry (also known as WCry or Wanna Decryptor) ransomware. The hackers had taken control of the huge amounts of patient data and holding it for ransom or else, it would be deleted. Within the next three days, this ransomware had affected more than 200,000 computers across different sectors in 150 countries, with Russia, Spain, India, Ukraine, Taiwan, China, Italy and Egypt, being the worst hit.
A ransomware attack can hit any organization, including enterprise e-commerce platforms. It can put the online store out of business for a several days, and resulting downtime could affect the business profit and credibility significantly. The customer may think that the e-commerce site has shut down, and may stop visiting.
While, the possibility of a ransomware attack can’t be completed ruled out, you can reduce the risk by understanding what it is and taking preventive e-commerce security steps.
What is Ransomware?
According to the website of Trend Micro, a global cloud security leader, ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files unless a ransom is paid.
The ransom price depends on the ransomware variant and the price or exchange rates of the digital currencies.
Ransomware or the malicious software can prevent the users from accessing Windows, encrypts the files and render them useless for further use, or/and prevents certain apps from running.
How it Works?
Ransomware usually originates from a spear-phishing email. The end-user receives a fake email claiming it to be from a friend, relative or an organization such as a bank or an insurance company. It contains a URL or an attachment, and appears quite legitimate to lead the users to click the URL or download the attachment with the email. As soon as users do so, the ransomware gets installed on their computers.
It then enables the hacker to steal the personal information, credentials and intellectual property of the victim business/person. It can encrypt all types of files such as documents, videos, audio files and images. Unless the victim pays the ransom within a stipulated time limit, the hacker will not provide the key to decrypt the files. If the keys are destroyed by the hacker, there will be no chance of accessing or recovering the files.
WannaCry ransomware works in a similar fashion. It targets Microsoft’s widely used Windows operating system. When it infects a system or a network, a pop-up window appears showing instructions on how to pay a ransom amount of $300. This pop-up window also shows two countdown clocks; one with a three-day deadline before the ransom amount doubles to $600; and another showing a deadline when the target will lose its data forever.
It accepts payment only in Bitcoin, a digital peer to peer decentralized crypto-currency.
Should You Pay Ransom?
It is advisable not to pay ransom.
There is no guarantee that the hackers will give you access to the files after you pay the ransom. In fact, they may ask for more money. The hackers are indulging in a criminal activity to make easy money, and paying ransom only promotes the offense further.
Ideally, you should dig up your backup files, look for free ransomware tools or employ a data recovery firm. However, if none of these options work in your favor, you may want to go with the second school of thought that believes that you should pay money, but ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future.
How to Protect Against Ransomware?
Here are some ways to prevent the threat of ransomware in enterprise e-commerce businesses.
- Stay away from phishing mails
According to a study, phishing emails are opened by 31% of users, while 12% of total users actually end up clicking the link. This is due to the fact that phishing mails look like spam email campaigns and appear to give convincing information. Next time, you get any unverified emails, or suspicious links embedded, do not open them.
- Keep the backup of files
Yes, back up is always advisable. The recommended rule for backup of files is 3-2-1, that is, create at least three copies in two different formats with one of those copies off-site. For example, you can keep two copies in the cloud security systems such as Dropbox or Google Drive, and the one on external hard drive or portable USB hard drive.
- Use anti-virus and internet security solutions
Install anti-virus and ecommerce security software, and keep them updated with the latest versions. Use the B2B ecommerce software which can deal with all types of malware, including ransomware.
- Other useful tips
- Disable or limit the functionality of the macros in the Microsoft Office Suite.
- Don’t stay logged in as an administrator longer than necessary. A guest login with limited privileges can be used for browsing, opening documents or other routine activities.
- Keep the client and server networks segmented with a firewall.
- Remove the plugins such as Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader, and even the ones which are add-ons or outdated. However, if you need to use them, you can set the browser setting to ‘activate when needed’.
- Keep the smart screen on Internet Explorer turned on to identify reported malware sites.
Ransomware is a growing cyber security concern across the globe. Keeping your business protected is the only way not to fall a victim to it.
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