Ransomware attacks are on the rise and, as seen in the May attack on the NHS , no one is safe from this highly destructive software. Malicious scams of this nature have accrued billions in recent years through extortion, and the vast array of payment methods in today’s online world, such as Bitcoin and wire transfer, make the money trail almost impossible to trace.

It has even been revealed that 1 in 4 victims who paid the ransom fee, still didn’t regain access to their files and documents. Prevention is definitely better than cure where ransomware attacks are concerned, and here are four important ways you can keep you and your business safe.

Keep Backup Data on a Separate Hard Drive

Storing data solely on your PC, in one place, leaves you highly vulnerable. Ensure you back up your data on a separate hard drive, and in the cloud through files hosting applications such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

As an extra security layer, try to only open such applications once per day to store files rather than having them automatically turn on with the computer. For larger companies where such actions are time consuming, it could be worthwhile seeking the services of specialist tech storage companies. However, you must always remember that the data is ultimately your responsibility, so it pays to research these companies thoroughly before handing over such sensitive information.

Keeping Your Computer Up to Date

Developers are continually adding in extra layers of security and updating protection software with each update, so it’s vital that you have the latest version of your operating system. Ensure the latest security updates are downloaded when available. Depending on the size of your company, it may prove useful to limit access and certain privileges for each member of staff when logging on each day. Certainly, keep administrator rights to as few staff as is necessary.

Be Vigilant When Using Email

Phishing emails have long been used as a deceptive form of information extraction. Despite growing public awareness through T.V. adverts and user training, still prove to be a lucrative scam. Reports indicate that  93 to 97 percent of all phishing emails now contain ransomware because of the relative ease of sending via email and the lower time commitment needed to see a financial return – compared to types of fraud such as identity theft.

Although it might be a good idea in theory to never open emails from unknown senders, this would be highly impractical in a business setting.  Instead, you must ensure that you never download any attachments unless you are 100 percent sure it’s safe to do so. Do not forward these emails to the IT department or to any other colleague, as this will put them at risk too.

So-called ‘soft targeted’ phishing emails are proving more popular as the public becomes aware of the generic spam email.  Such emails may contain seemingly useful links for certain staff members or even a CV attached as a document, which can be unwittingly forwarded to colleagues.

Be Smart on the Internet

Ransomware attacks aren’t just limited to scam emails. Many people are unaware of the susceptibility of internet browser plugins such as Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader where the malicious software can be spread through spoof updates. It’s advisable to remove all but the most essential and used plugins, and set your browser to prompt you to activate them when required rather than be activated automatically.

Your browser’s security settings determine which sites you can access; there’s lots of online help on how to update the security settings for Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Ensure that your browser doesn’t log important password and form data by disabling ‘autofill’ options. Also consider implementing the use of an ad-blocker, which can help disable potentially malicious pop-ups and ads.

Even the most vigilant of computer users can still be the victim of a ransomware attack, and when this happens, it’s important that you turn to specialist professionals to help you deal with the threat to your data – the lifeblood of your business. Only expert ransomware removal firms, such as Monster Cloud, can help restore your data,  help you save your money from ending up in the hands of criminals, and prevent attacks of this nature happening again. By hiring a specialist company to test out the security of your computer network, and highlight where any potential weak links are, you can be confident of the security of your business and its assets.