What is going on?
Cyber threats are at an all time high, and it has never been more important for businesses to lock down their data. Gone are the days of locking up your shop – lock up your computer!
In a recent outburst in cyber attacks across the world, the unaffectionately named ‘WannaCry’, has attacked hundreds of thousands of computers. Actually called ‘WannaCrypt’, it is a piece of ransomware that locks the system and asks the user for bitcoin (a digital payment system, or cryptocurrency), in exchange for the safe return of the files. The malware has affected government agencies, small businesses and even disrupted surgeries and hospitals.
To give you an idea of how it works, it is spread through the internet and can infect computers in a matter of minutes. It targets computers running old versions of Microsoft Windows in order to skip past old firewalls and software vulnerabilities. It then exploits these vulnerabilities to gain access and lock down whole drives on the computer.
WannaCry primarily hits PCs running older versions of Windows. Unfortunately, protective software is more reactive than proactive, prompting Microsoft to release an emergency security patch for computers at risk.
How does this affect me?
If you are a small or medium-sized business – this is your wake up call! Assuming you use some form of technology to conduct or manage your business, this affects you. Ransomware is a serious threat and many SMEs have been quite proactive in protecting themselves against such attacks. However there are still many thousands of small businesses that are not protected.
The way technology is going today, most businesses have some online aspect, whether it be a website, ordering and sales systems, accounting software, or social media. The dramatic shift to online brings great opportunities, but also modern-day threats.
The risk that SMEs face is having files and information encrypted by corrupt malware. This can have a detrimental effect on your business, potentially losing customer order details, company records and sensitive information – all ultimately affecting your bottom line.
What happens next?
The NZ Government has been proactive about cybersecurity and as such, there weren’t many reports of the outbreak of wannacrypt in NZ. The recent attack was a test for the recent cyber infrastructure put in place by the NZ government to protect the public, and can be used as an assessment of our position on the lingering threat of cyber attacks.
As small businesses around New Zealand haven’t largely been affected by the recent attack, some don’t understand that they are still at risk of similar outbreaks in the future.
New Zealand’s Computer Emergency Response Team have been responding to cybersecurity threats for years, including the recent ‘wannacry’ outbreak. They have released some more information regarding the ransomware, but have said the best way to protect your files is to “Make sure you have backed up your system and files stored securely, off-network”. They have also advised that people do not pay the $300 of bitcoin as chances are, you may not even get your files back.
What you can do to be protected
→ Backup your data regularly
We cannot emphasise this point enough. It is so important to keep your files secure and up to date to avoid not only months of lost work, but also lost revenue as a result. It is quite simple to back your data up. All you need is either an external hard drive which you can purchase from most tech stores, or arguably even easier, you can migrate to cloud based data storage – making your information and files accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
→ Download security software
There are many free and paid cybersecurity and anti-malware software options available to SMEs. Do your research and find out the best one suitable for you and your business. Obviously the more you pay, the better protection you can get – but this needs to be evaluated according to your circumstances as you might end up paying for things you don’t need. A good place to start would be Norton or Kaspersky.
→ Keep your software up to date
The rate of innovation driving technological advancements means the software you use should be the latest version, in order to dodge intrusive malware and viruses like WannaCry. Hackers and viruses are continuously finding new ways to get into your information and around firewalls to corrupt your information, so it pays to be on top of this with the different programs you use to conduct your work.
→ Update your computer
You know the annoying little popup that appears in the bottom corner of your screen saying, “Updates available. Update your computer now”? The answer is yes. It’s time to update your computer. Make sure your PC is running the latest version of its operating system. Although they can be an inconvenience, it is important your computer stays up to date with patches and fixes to prevent impending malware attacks.
If you find yourself the victim of a cyber crime and need flexible, unsecured financing to remain atop of these hazards, we have you covered. Spotcap offers tailored financing opportunities to SMEs from $10k to $250k, so you can focus on what really matters – getting your business back on its feet.
Until next time,
The Spotcap team.
Originally published May 23 2017 , updated June 5 2018