By James Woodard
Aug 24, 2017
Ransomware is the single largest threat that small businesses face in the year 2017. Nearly half of small-to-medium-sized businesses close within a year of their first ransomware attack. Business owners do a lot to secure their livelihoods. Alarm systems and video cameras can stop perpetrators from stealing merchandise and valuable goods. But what are these business owners doing to protect their data?
Shockingly, over seven percent of all computer users are still running Windows XP, an operating system that reached its end of life over three years ago (after several end-of-life extensions). This is wildly unsafe, and frankly irresponsible if the business owner is storing business-critical data on that machine. So what can you do to protect your data?
RUN A MODERN, SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEM! If you are running Windows XP in 2017, your computer is a ticking time bomb for ransomware and malware. As stated above, XP reached its end-of-life in 2014. It was released in the year 2001. That was 16 years ago. Imagine if you were in 2001 and running a 16 year old operating system. Would you feel safe running something from 1985? That was the year Windows 1.0 came out! What if your hardware can’t run a modern operating system? As hard as it may be to hear, you need to upgrade. Luckily, computers are as cheap as they’ve ever been, and are consistently getting cheaper and cheaper. Would you rather pay a $5,000 ransom to get your data back, or spend a couple hundred dollars to upgrade your PC (and in the process, getting some sweet new hardware)?
IF YOU ARE RUNNING A SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEM, CHECK FOR UPDATES! Yes, we all know that updates are annoying. Yes, they will require a reboot. But a minor inconvenience is really nothing if you consider the consequences of not doing it. Hackers are finding exploits in software and firmware daily, and developers are constantly pushing updates and patches to the OS. You have current and update your software and operating system regularly.
EMPOWER AND EDUCATE YOUR EMPLOYEES! Do your employees know good internet hygiene? Would they know not to plug in that USB thumb drive they found in the parking lot into the accountant’s computer? Do they know not to open attachments from unknown email senders? Educate your employees about good internet common sense and the threat of being hacked becomes that much smaller. While you are at it, show them how to check for updates in Windows!