Protecting you from ransomware

We started protecting you from ransomware in 2013 and yet recently in the news they make it sound like it’s something new that businesses should be addressing. Frustrating.

We’re so low key about this that you might not even know what ransomware is. It’s a criminal activity whereby the bad guys trick you into allowing the installation of an application that goes through finds your data and encrypts it so it can’t be read by anyone. They then hold the de-encryption key for ransom. Once you pay them, they then give you the key and you can use it to make your files usable again. It’s nasty.

Security has always been a focus of mine and consequently a focus of Harbor Computer Services. Back in 2013 we recognized the ransomware threat and created group policies to prevent the encrypting application from running. We then made those policies freely available to other IT firms through my other company, Third Tier. There were more than 50,000 thousand downloads of those and I hope they are using them to good effect.

Since then we’ve continued to develop solutions to the ransomware threat and we regularly deploy those to your computer networks without fanfare. It’s just something that we do. But it occurs to me that perhaps we should mention it. So here’s  short summary of how you are protected from ransomware.

  • Firewall: settings to block known ransomware locations to prevent it from calling home to create the encryption key.
  • PC: Office 2016 settings to prevent untrusted Macros from running. Email filtering to attempt to catch phishing and bad URLs. Group Policy or local security policy to prevent the ransomware application from running.
  • Server: Limit permissions to files because if the infected person doesn’t have access to the data the ransomware can’t encrypt it. Disallow certain types of file extensions from saving since ransomware changes the file extension.
  • Backup: limit writable backup to the backup application only. store a copy of the backup offline.
  • People: Offer short training sessions to educate staff on how to identify bad email, bad file attachments and bad websites

That’s a real quick and incomplete picture but what it shows is what good IT practices look like. We call it the onion layer approach. From edge (firewall) to person at the keyboard every part of the environment plays a role in protecting you from ransomware. None of this is rocket science; it is simply good IT practices. We now make our Ransomware Prevention Kit available to other IT firms and we charge them a paltry fee. Over 6,000 firms around the world are using our kit and we hope that they are using it to modernize their IT practices and keep their clients safe from ransomware too. As with all infection fighting, nothing is 100%. There are bad actors always working to find new ways to get their infection on computers but so far we’ve got an excellent record at protecting our clients.

– Amy, president Harbor Computer Services

About Harbor Computer Services

Harbor Computer Services is an IT firm servicing Southeastern Michigan. We work exclusively under contract with our clients to provide technology direction and either become the IT department or provide assistance to the internal IT they already have. We have won many awards for our work over the years, including the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year in 2010. We’re the smallest firm to have ever won this most prestigious award. Most recently we were recognized as one of the top 20 visionaries in small business IT by ChannelPro Magazine (2015). And in 2016 as the top Michigan IT firm for Manufacturing. There are a few simple things that make Harbor Computer Services the best choice for your business. •We are Professionals •We are Responsible •We are Concerned About The Success of Your Business

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