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Don't Let Ransomware Ruin Your Work Week!

It's Monday morning at the office and while your PC is booting up you go and grab some fresh coffee from the break room.  You return with your cup of joe ready to start the day.   Your first priority is to finish the monthly status report you started on Friday.  Your boss already gently reminded you it was due today when your paths crossed at the breakroom -- and you informed her she should have it in her inbox shortly.   With a sip of coffee you double-click the word document to open it and to your surprise, the message below pops up:

CryptoLocks Screen Shot

You quickly look at other files and to your dismay you see that all your files have been hit.   Not sure what to do, you walk around the office to see if any of your co-workers are having the same problem.  The good news is they are not -- it appears isolated to your machine.  Your boss tells you to call the computer experts over at your friendly neighborhood IT company.   You get patched through to Alan, and based on the description, he warns that it looks like your workstation has been hit by ransomware.   Alan asks you to immediately unplug the machine from the network, shut it down, and then Alan will come by and take a look at it.

A few hours later, Alan gives you an update confirming you’ve been hit with a nasty ransomware virus and talks through your options.  Option 1:  You could pay $2500 in bitcoin and maybe get your data back.  Option 2:  Alan could try to see if any tools out on the market will decrypt the data.   Option 3:  You could revert to a recent back-up of your data.     

The boss didn’t want to pony up over $2500 with no guarantees (justifiably so), and you find out that your backups had stopped working over 3 months ago because of an unknown disk space issue.  So that left Option 2.   It took a few days, but Alan was able to recover about 25% of the files. Alan then swiped the infected machine clean and restored the operating system to its normal state. The good news was that one of the files Alan saved was your monthly sales report!  Plus many of your working documents were found in the old back-ups. They were a bit outdated but better than starting from scratch.   The bad news was you basically lost about 3-4 days of productivity in dealing with this issue,  your reports to your boss were late, and more time will be lost as you bring old document version up-to-date.  What a Monday!

While this is a hypothetical scenario, don’t make the mistake of thinking this can’t happen to you.  Here at CPU we have seen customers hit by ransomware first hand, and it is an extremely frustrating "in your face" type experience we wish none of our clients would ever have to go through.

Education within your organization is your first defense.  To that end, the goal of this article is to share information about the real-world dangers of ransomware along with practical advice to help avoid falling into such a disastrous scenario.  So make sure you don't have a Monday like described above by sharpening your ransomware defense skills with the useful information provided below:

  • Ransomware Is Prolific. Companies need to recognize that ransomware is rampant and only getting worse -- with 50% of all cases occurring in the U.S.  In the news, it seemed like hospitals were bearing the brunt of ransomware events, but no industry is safe from an attack.  In reality, every company should have a plan in place in case a ransomware attack does occur on their network. 

Top 10 Countries hit with Ransomware

  • Ransomware Types.  At this moment there are two primary types of ransomware viruses that can impact servers, workstations, laptops, and now even tablets and smartphones.  The first is "Lock Screen" which prevents users from gaining normal access to their computer.  The second is a "Crypto-Virus" type event which encrypts many or all of the files on the users local and connected network drives.  It is called ransomware because the criminals want the companies to pay a ransom (usually in bitcoin) to remove the virus.
  • Methods of Infection. The methods attackers are using to spread their ransomware on unsuspecting users is getting more and more sophisticated.  The first ransomware attacks came from user's opening attachments from email -- and is still the most common approach today.  But hackers are finding new and innovative ways to distribute their ransomware malware using other technologies.  For example, recently there was a malware advertising campaign that used legitimate web ads (i.e. Hugo Boss) to launch a flash executable download that resulted in computers being exposed to CryptoLock.   The user simply clicked on what gave every indication as a legitimate ad on a legitimate website, and boom, their data was encrypted and the ransom notes began.   Really scary stuff.
  • To Pay Or Not To Pay.  While the FBI recommends not to pay, it is important to consider that most people who pay the ransom do get their data back.  This is somewhat of an honor code among thieves – after all, if the crooks didn’t hold up their end of the deal then there would be no incentive to pay the ransom in the first place.  So unlocking the data is a key aspect of the criminals business model.  While paying to get your important data back may seem like an attractive option to some, in many ways this is a short-sighted decision.  First, knowing that your company pays ransoms means it probably will be on the short-list for another attack.  Second, your ransom payment contributes to the growth of the overall industry.  At CPU, we recommend a proactive approach by investing in your security and backup systems rather than having your data held hostage by the bad guys.

The quick bottom line:

  1. Educate your staff.
  2. Be careful (extremely careful) what you click.
  3. Make sure you have a proper backup solution in place.
  4. If you don’t have one already, formalize a ransomware action plan for your company.

If you have any more questions about ransomware, or would like to know what else you can do to help protect your network and important data, feel free to send us an email at info@c-p-u.com or call us at 573-334-2420.

Ransomware Tips from our partner TrendMicro:

TrendMicro Ransonware Tips


References:

1. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/portal/mmpc/shared/ransomware.aspx#prevalent

2. http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/security/cyberwar/hugo-boss-malware-advert-malwarebytes-166419

3. https://esupport.trendmicro.com/en-us/home/pages/technical-support/titanium-premium-security/1099580.aspx

4. https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/incidents-of-ransomware-on-the-rise

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  • We rely on CPU to provide our Professional Payroll Service and Network Technical Assistance. They provide professional guidance and expertise and are always courteous and responsive. Our staff counts on CPU Inc for quick and reliable solutions for our day to day operations here at Southeast Missouri Food Bank.

    Karen Green, CEO

    Southeast Missouri Food Bank

    600 State Highway H, Sikeston, MO

  • Since Cape Endodontics' beginning in 2009, CPU has been there right along our side, thus allowing us more valuable time to serve our patients better. Their payroll and record keeping services are top notch, and the entire support team is friendly and knowledgeable. Over the last two years we have also utilized their computer technical services and find them to be of the same high standards as their other services. Together we provide excellent service to the Heartland region.

    Dr. Jonathan J. Rhoades, Owner/Endodontist

    Cape Endodontics

    2502 Tanner Drive, Suite 203, Cape Girardeau, MO

  • We have worked with CPU for two years as our payroll service. We are experts at crafting a great mattress at a great price. CPU has done the same with payroll service. We can count on their trustworthy, dependable and timely service each week. The transition was seamless. We would recommend CPU to any business, small or large.

    Cindy Ahmed, Owner

    Campbell Mattress Company

    100 Minnesota Avenue, Cape Girardeau, MO

  • We started with CPU just this year, and WOW! All those things you dream of when you outsource, you actually get with CPU. I needed a way to complete our payroll processes without actually having to be in the office, and I also wanted to move to direct deposit. CPU is the best in the game at this, and my staff loves the online viewing, convenience of deposit, and continuous record of their paystubs. Everybody is happy…how often can you say that! MedStop One is a big fan of CPU!

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    MedStop One

    3065 William St., Ste 209, Cape Girardeau, MO

  • Wiethop Truck Sales is an international heavy and medium duty truck dealership celebrating over 60 years in business in Cape Girardeau. CPU has provided payroll services for us for many of these years. I have found that CPU provides very prompt, accurate, and dependable payroll services. With the advancement of technology and the computer, we turned to CPU for help in maintaining our information systems. They have been a great help over the years, providing computer installation and maintenance along with assistance with our internet and network connections. I would not hesitate to highly recommend CPU to anyone needing these type of services. We couldn’t ask for any better service!

    Kim G. Ridgon, General Manager

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    2350 Independence St, Cape Girardeau, MO

  • Here at Dutch Enterprises, we have been relying on CPU, Inc.’s computer/technical expertise for the last 5 years. Their technicians are always professional and very knowledgeable in their field. We can always count on CPU to respond in a timely manner and minimize any down time for our business during technical troubles. Our business relies heavily on our computers working properly and we feel secure in the knowledge that we can always call on CPU to help us when the need arises.

    Rob Janet, CEO

    Dutch Enterprises

    4832 Old Cape Rd E, Jackson, MO

  • CPU has processed payroll for Doctors Express since we opened in 2010. The payroll program is efficient and simple to use and the staff is always friendly and helpful. Our payroll is processed in a timely way and reporting is always accurate and complete. Our employees like the convenience of the online access to their payroll information. We are very pleased with the services provided by CPU for Doctors Express.

    Patty Schaefer, CPA

    Doctor's Express Urgent Care

    465 S. Mt Auburn Rd, Suite 103, Cape Girardeau, MO

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    David Scherer, Comptroller

    Ole Hickory Pits

    333 Main St, Cape Girardeau, MO

  • CPU has provided payroll services for us for two years. CPU makes very complicated payroll situations seem simple. They take care of all our payroll details so that we can focus on what’s important...our students. It gives us peace of mind knowing that all our payroll and taxes are in good hands. We had phenomenal service right from the initial call, and the CPU team continues to support us so wonderfully.

    Russell Grammer, Executive Director

    Prodigy Leadership Academy

    1301 N Main Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

  • When Innovative Orthodontics opened the doors to a new Jackson office, CPU installed the computer system, networked with our Cape office, and also integrated new fingerprint ID software for ease of patient sign ins. They also installed the video software, enabling patients to view their records, x-rays, progress, and educational videos on procedures and hygiene. They provide service that is simple and a result that is seamless.

    Terry Spence, DDS, MDS

    Innovative Orthodontics

    2103 Broadway, Cape Girardaeau, MO and 404 S Hope, Jackson, MO

  • We at 36 have used CPU, Inc. since we opened and will continue to use them for their payroll services. CPU has provided excellent customer service, high-quality products, and service in a professional manner. They have been so supportive that we not only call them business associates, we call them friends. Thank you, CPU.

    Houston Sutton (Executive Chef) and Vanessa and John Eric Klein (Proprietors)

    36 Restaurant & Bar

    36. North Main Street, Cape Girardeau, MO