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Network Security 101 – Viruses, Malware and Ransomware

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If a security disaster were to affect your network tomorrow, how long could your business survive? Whether you’re a home PC user or a network administrator, you always need a plan for when the unexpected happens to your network or you run significant risk and potentially huge losses in productivity.

The purpose behind this 4 post blog series is to provide small business owners and network administrators with a better understanding of security needs and to outline the actions that can be taken to ensure the safety of networks and their data. Check back over the coming weeks to learn about:

  • Virus, Malware, Spam – how are you protected from these?
  • User Security – What policies are in place for passwords and shared files?
  • Firewalls and external threat protection – is it the right quality and have the right features?
  • Social Engineering & User education – do your users practice safe browsing?

Virus, Malware, Spam – how are you protected from these?

Viruses, worms, Trojans, and bots are all part of a class of software called malware. Malware or malcode is software that is specifically designed to damage, steal, or disrupt your data, hosts, or networks. Damage from malware can vary from causing minor irritation (such as browser popup ads), to stealing confidential information or money, destroying data, and compromising or entirely disabling systems and networks.

Ransomware in general, work like other types of malware but instead of infecting your files, it locks your keyboard or computer to prevent you from accessing your data until you pay a ransom. While this form of malware isn’t new, attackers have greatly improved on the scheme. Ransomware can encrypt everything from your documents to your photos, and without the correct password to unlock them, you may never be able to open these files again.

So, how can you protect yourself and your business from malware?

Most of the popular anti-virus/anti-malware tools out there will scan for most types of malware. Coupled with good browsing and downloading hygiene, a good security tool should keep you pretty well protected.

When it comes to spam, it can in fact actually harm you or your computer. So-called phishers use spam to rope computer users in to scams that lead to identity theft. Spam can also carry viruses that will infect your computer. Or, spam can hog bandwidth, making it hard for you to receive the legitimate emails you actually want to read.

While there is no one tool available that is capable of catching everything, we suggest you:

  • Install one security tool (I prefer ESET) that scans for as much as possible
  • Combine that with regular checking with an anti-malware tool (like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware) to make sure nothing has been overlooked
  • Add that to a good business class firewall
  • And an email system (like Microsoft Office 365) that properly filters spam

This combination of tools will enable you to dramatically reduce your risk to threats.

Remember to keep in mind:

  • Anti-virus software is not a firewall and will not prevent you from getting hacked.
  • Most malware attacks nowadays take the form of zero-day attacks. A zero-day attack exploits a previously unknown vulnerability for which no patch or solution has been developed. This means that while users assume they are secure because they have installed an antivirus, they could already be infected without knowing it.

If you have any questions or concerns on your network security, please contact one of our certified consultants to discuss your network’s needs. Check back next week to read the next Network Security 101 blog post: User Security – What policies are in place for passwords and shared files?

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