How cloud storage can protect your files from ransomware

Keep your data safe from crypto attacks

Ransomware is malicious software (malware) that infects computers and encrypts files, making them impossible to access. It does this quietly until lots of your files are encrypted. Then it pops up a notice saying that you can get your files back… but only by paying a ransom, usually in Bitcoins.

Sometimes ransomware is called ‘crypto’, an abbreviation of ‘encryption’. There are many different types, and more are appearing all the time.

The ransomware attack in May 2017 targeted Windows-based computers. Microsoft had released a security patch earlier in the year, but not everyone had applied it. The WannaCry ransomware virus caused chaos in many countries, but New Zealand had a lucky escape.

The attack happened on a Friday night our time, after the working week. IT providers had time to patch vulnerable systems over the weekend and warn users by email. If it had happened on a Wednesday or Thursday, the outcome might have been very different.

In some ways the attack was a blessing in disguise. All the media attention has encouraged people to take IT security seriously. The damage could have been far worse: the virus was only disabled by accident and could still reappear in a more dangerous form.

So how can you protect your files? Obviously it’s important to take sensible precautions such as having up-to-date anti-virus/malware software and not clicking on random email links. But this virus was able to spread without email, so that’s not enough protection.

What really matters is having a good backup strategy. Regular backups into the cloud will help keep your files safe.

How? Imagine you were working on a document called “Marketing Strategy Q3 2017” Over a period of weeks this document was written, edited and rewritten, with additions, comments and amendments from everyone in your organisation.

Then, one day, up pops the dreaded ransomware notice telling you that “Marketing Strategy Q3 2017” has been encrypted. What do you do? Without cloud backups or other offline backups, you’re in trouble. Either pay the ransom and hope you get the file back, or create a new document from scratch.

But with cloud backup things are much simpler. First, ask your IT provider to clean the ransomware off your system. Second, roll back to a clean version of “Marketing Strategy Q3 2017” from your cloud backup and carry on working where you left off.

Cloud backup is no longer a luxury. It’s essential if you want peace of mind that you’re safe from ransomware.

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