Action Fraud recently issued warnings to schools against fraudsters posing as government officials in attempts to hold computer files to ransom.
Numerous attempts to inflict ransomware on school systems have recently been made, making the message to schools loud and clear: ensure you have the best possible endpoint protection, educate your staff and be vigilant. Falling victim to this malicious cybercrime will be costly and will wreak utter havoc.
But what is ransomware, how does it work and how can you protect your school against it?
Ransomware is a form of malware (malicious code) that affects ‘endpoints’, or computer devices. There are two main types of malware: one which inhibits the operation of your device, including the boot-up process, and one which encrypts the user files, making it impossible to use your files or emails unless you agree to pay the ransom, or unless you have a back-up.
The most common ransomware methodology is phishing, via emails. The emails contain malicious links or files, which when clicked execute malicious code. Some emails do not need to be opened for encryption to take place, when files become unusable and pop-up messages demand payment. Users also need to be wary of clicking on unsuspecting links or websites which can also initiate ransomware.
Ransom payments are made via bit coins. Often instructions on how to purchase bit coins accompany the ransomware, however it is strongly advised NOT to pay the ransom. This fuels the cyberattack infrastructure and there is no guarantee you will be able to use your files again.
Ransomware is constantly changing so is difficult to detect and offenders are continuously testing new ransomwares against the world’s top security. Exploit kits are used to detect vulnerabilities in systems, especially those that have outdated protection. Once discovered, they are immediately exploited by infecting the system with malware.
Schools Broadband, specialist broadband, web filtering and security providers, recommend a combination of Fortinet Network Security, which all their schools are protected by, and Sophos Endpoint Security. They say this is the best security combination available, and as ransomware is a very real problem which is growing in volume and velocity, the importance of extra endpoint protection should not be underestimated.
● Do NOT open unsolicited emails, attachments or SMS messages