Ransomware has been causing havoc for some time now and we are still hearing about businesses getting in trouble.
So what is it?
Around the end of 2013 a new breed of virus, ransomware, appeared – the best know variants are Cryptolocker and Cryptowall. The virus encrypts files and holds the victim to ransom – if they don’t pay the files are lost – if they do pay the victim best hope the attacker is good to their word and provides the decryption code.
How does it get on?
The virus may get on your system in a number of ways. Common methods include via email attachments and through websites. More sinister than this, companies have been specific targets of hacking – attackers have actively chosen a company to target and attack. It is believed that small businesses may make good targets because:
Generally easier to hack than enterprises.
They will be willing to pay to not lose their data.
They have the money to pay.
What does it do again?
Once on your computer the virus starts to encrypt your files. It will try to encrypt any files it can get its hands on – like your My Documents and your network drive files. It goes for files like word documents, images and spreadsheets. Often the first sign you get is when Word or Excel refuses to open one of your files.
When the files are encrypted a message is displayed on your PC to let you know what’s just happened. The message will also provide details on how to pay.
The encryption used requires a key to decode it – the key remains in the hands of the bad guys. The files can not be decrypted without the key.
Can I pay and how much?
Normally if you pay up the key is provided and you get your files back. But you are dealing with criminals, so no guarantees.
The amount extorted varies in multiples of £100’s to £1000’s.
Can I recover my files?
Obviously you can go straight to your backup and get them there. We are painfully aware that many people don’t have backups, keep reading. It’s worth noting that if undetected for long enough the backups may be encrypted also.
So no backup, what’s next? So you if are not not paying then you need to remove the virus, anti virus software like AVG and anti-malware like MalwareBytes should take care of most of that.
Next is the tip that may save you – previous versions. Most Windows PC’s will have previous versions enabled. This allows you to restore previous versions of your folders – restore a version from before the virus did it’s work.
I got my files back, now what?
Once you have recovered your files, and have them safely on a backup drive, reset the infected computers back to factory settings – in other words install a clean version of windows.
We hope the above overview is useful, prevention is better than a cure – so if you are lucky and haven’t been hit yet, now is a good time to check your backup plan is working and that you have effective anti virus measures in place.
Here’s some more information from AVG specifically about Cryptolocker, AVG are partners with Nimbus CS:
If all this is Double Dutch and you want someone to take care of it for you, give Nimbus CS a call today.
Article as published in the Belfast Telegraph on 24/11/2015
This Cloud really does have a silver lining
As even a cursory glance at the business headlines will highlight, times are difficult in the manufacturing sector.
At a time when manufacturing is focusing on exporting, cutting costs and improving efficiency, it is essential that manufacturing companies do all that they can to make themselves as flexible as possible to work with from the point of view of their supply chain, distribution and customer services.
New processes, materials and software tools are helping manufacturers rebound from the economic downturn and few technologies hold more promise for supporting a prosperous manufacturing future than cloud computing services.
A recent survey on cloud computing and manufacturing found that 66% of respondents did not understand how hosted or cloud services could add benefit to the business, but found that most companies adopting the cloud grew 53% faster than peers.
Below are some questions and answers on the ways in which manufacturers can benefit from cloud computing:
What is the cloud?
In simple terms it means storing and accessing important company data and programs over the internet on a large network of servers that are held in secure data centre locations and maintained by trained IT administrators.
How can cloud computing help my manufacturing business?
I recently spoke to Daniel McCusker from BlueMAC Manufacturing in Dungannon on the benefits of cloud computing and here were his top three points:
1. Staff on the factory floor can access Microsoft Office on the web. This means you don’t have to purchase, install or maintain on every single computer, thus saving the company money long term.
2. Accelerate the product development cycle by providing 24/7 access to data from anywhere in the world and ultimately get the product to market faster.
3. Personnel in different offices and plants can share information easily and instantly without having a large capital investment.
How much will it cost?
The advantage of cloud computing is scalability and you can adjust the cost based on that scale. In most cases, your technology scales as your need grows and then shrinks as your need shrinks. If you hire 20 temporary staff for a new product line that will last six months, you don’t have to purchase new servers and software as you can just scale as you need to.
Can I have some onsite and offsite services?
This is known as a hybrid system. Just like electric cars, they can run both fuel and electric together.
The value of the cloud to manufacturers is its ability to empower business with the choice to mix on-premises tools with tools in the cloud to support efficient and cost effective decisions of the company. Cloud computing is almost limitless in its ability to streamline operations, open global communication, decrease overhead expenses save money for manufacturers.
We’re finding that one of our main areas of growth is across the manufacturing sector.
Any business initiative which can help cut costs and improve productivity and efficiency is worth looking at in today’s ultra-competitive market place.
Gareth McAlister is managing director of Belfast-based company Nimbus CS
Many aspects of cloud computing are still new to many businesses, and this can create concern, especially when growing companies hear about suggested dangers of cloud computing.
There are a lot of misconceptions about cloud computing out there, so here’s a list of some of the top myths about what is a much misunderstood technology:
Myth 1 – My company isn’t big enough to use the cloud
Nothing could be further from the truth. It doesn’t matter if you have one employee or one thousand employees, it can be scaled to suit your business size.
Myth 2 – Company data is not secure
In 2015, 60% of businesses are using cloud computing services, with some of the remaining 40% put off by security fears. In fact, the cloud is more secure than ever as your onsite servers are more likely to get hacked or have a hardware failure and result in data loss.
Myth 3 – The cloud is more expensive
In most cases once you figure out the costs of buying new hardware, upgrading and maintaining it, then compare these costs to the monthly fees that a cloud provider will charge, you will see that it is normally cheaper to use cloud space in the long term.
Myth 4 – Everything works better in the cloud
This is almost true but some old applications that were designed to run on dedicated servers are often difficult to run on the cloud.
Myth 5 – The cloud is not reliable
Major cloud providers like Apple and Microsoft make the news every once in a while for outages. However, how often does your onsite service go down in comparison? This gives the wrong impression that the cloud is more unreliable than onsite services and really there’s no comparison.
Myth 6 – Anyone can access my data
This is a common myth and one that worries most businesses. In fact, most hosting providers who hold your data cannot access or disclose any company information legally.
Myth 7 – Migrating into the cloud is more hassle than it is worth
While some work will be required, migrating into the cloud should be relatively pain-free. It can all happen very quickly and seamlessly with minimal downtime.
Next week, Gareth will focus on manufacturing and the cloud.
As published in the Belfast Telegraph – 17/11/2015