Several clients learned some hard lessons this week. First and foremost, no one is immune from malware, no matter how much money and time is invested in security. If you still don’t believe this, you might be surprised to know that the White House was hacked recently. Granted, I made fun of government-run websites and their pitiful security, but one has to imagine that the Secret Service takes POTUS security very seriously, and yet Russian hackers seemed to be able to access sensitive information by fooling someone through a phishing email. Yes, email. That indispensable tool that we can’t live with and can’t live without. While we are frequently the agents of our own demise (surely this email from this overseas lawyer about a long lost inheritance is real this time), we can also be the agents of our own salvation as well.
Let me testify!
Above all, stop opening attachments sent via email, and likewise, look for ways to stop sending attachments via email. There are tons of secure file sharing options out there (keep in mind we don’t consider the free Dropbox among them…yet), but as long as the business world continues to rely on attachments to get things done, cyber criminals will exploit your willingness to open things sent to you via email. Resist the urge to open attachments even if you recognize the sender, and verify via phone if they indeed sent the attachment. Here’s an important clue: financial institutions, law enforcement, government agencies and just about any large consumer-serving company will not send you an attachment in order to get you do something or notify you of important information. FedEx nor UPS do not send you delivery confirmations as attachments. Neither your bank or credit card company will send you an attachment asking you to open them. If you receive what you believe to be a legitimate attachment from a company with which you do business, call them to verify they sent you that file. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, they did not send that file. I guarantee that you will receive emails that look and read 100% legitimate, but will in fact be clever attempts to trick you into nasty malware infection. Even the best anti-malware software won’t be 100% effective all the time. The criminals who send you attachments anticipate you have some form of protection installed, and their payloads are designed to turn that “foot in the door” into a full-scale home invasion, anti-malware or no.
The best management coaches say to always pair a “stop doing this” with a “start doing this”. Are you backing up your data? If not, you need to start, right now. If you are, have you checked your backups lately? Tried restoring a file? Are your backups stored offsite? One of the clients mentioned above was thoroughly decimated by the infamous cryptolocker malware. Not only did it take out a principle workstation and all data, it also kidnapped their server data and mangled their backups, primarily because they were onsite and not designed to go back more than a week before being overwritten. Cryptolocker is infamous for hiding out for days before making its presence known, precisely to destroy local backups in this fashion. If you are using proper offsite backups, either through rotating media offsite manually or by using a cloud-based platform, this form of infection is annoying but survivable. Do yourself a favor and review your backup strategies immediately!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net