With the increase in reported ransomware attacks in the news lately, from major corporations, to city governments to school districts, the question has been raised to me from several clients, when should we pay the ransom? My simple answer is this; never.

I say never, because the truth is that if you are security conscious, or are working with an IT professional, there is absolutely zero reason why you should have to pay a ransom to get your data back. Why? Because you have safeguards in place to a) prevent ransomware from infecting your machine, and b) you have all of your critical data backed up using a secure backup strategy. If you are working with an IT professional, and they don’t have these two simple safeguards in place, fire them immediately and get someone that knows what they are doing – seriously!

Looking at the news articles in recent weeks concerning the ransomware attacks against cities and school districts, I kept finding myself asking the same question – where in the world are their backups? There is absolutely zero reason why these major organizations shouldn’t have been able to do a system wipe and restore and be up and running again within HOURS of the attack. There is also no reason why any of these organizations should have had to pay the ransom to get their data back either! And, apparently powers that be from these organizations must have felt the same way, as there were many firings in the IT departments after these ransomware attacks.

So, for those of you not working with an IT professional (or questioning the one you are working with), you might be asking yourself, how do I setup data continuity to protect myself? Well,  I’m going to tell you.

First order of business is to secure your devices – I personally am a huge fan of Bitdefender and I use their GravityZone product for all of my clients. It provides robust security, including antivirus, antimalware, antiphishing, and antiransomware protection – plus it has built in software firewall with intrusion detection, web content filtering, device control and so much more that makes it one of the best security solutions I have ever used. They also have products available for your mobile devices, so with the increase of mobile device attacks, you can protect yourself there as well.

If you are a home user and want protection for all your home computers and mobile devices, check out the Bitdefender Premium Security product as it has everything you need to protect your home use devices. If you are a small business looking for protection, check out their many Business Security products and choose the one best for your needs. Or, if you don’t want to deal with it, or don’t know how to configure your security settings, contact me and I can get you setup with the same security I offer all my clients.

Second, implement a rock-solid backup plan that backs up your important files, and (if you’re smart) make a full system backup of your computer which you can use to be back online within hours (or less) of a major event (security or otherwise). Now when I say rock-solid backup plan, I don’t mean backup your files to another location on your computer – this literally does nothing to help you in the event of a ransomware attack, hardware failure, etc., because your backups are on the affected device (seriously, you would be surprised how many situations I have walked into where their backups are on the same machine they are backing up). In order to have a rock-solid backup plan you need to subscribe to the 3-2-1 Backup method (at a minimum), which means you have three copies of your data, in two different locations, with one of those locations being offsite.

Let’s review the 3-2-1 backup method in detail for a moment. (3) – Three copies of your data would mean your original data (on your system, the data you work with every day), your first backup copy, and then your second backup copy. (2) – The two backups mean that your data is backed up twice, to two separate devices/locations, and finally (1) – One of those backup devices/locations needs to be offsite (think cloud). The reason for two backup copies is simple – you’re backing up your backup (what if the external drive fails) and the reason to have the second copy offsite is so that in the event of natural disaster, theft, hardware failure, etc., you still have a copy of your data, safe and far away.

There are a ton of backup products on the market today, and many of them are good. I personally use the Acronis Backup solution for myself and my clients, which allows me to configure both onsite backups and cloud backups (remember, two backups, two locations), all from a single control panel. Additionally, Acronis supports encryption, which encrypts your data before it leaves the device, and encrypts it at rest, plus they have this really awesome ransomware protection feature, which will actually monitor your systems being backed up, and kill processes which appear to be dangerous (and of course, you have control to trust processes should you get false positives). Other benefits of Acronis Backup include support for Windows, Mac and Linux, workstations or servers, plus support for backing up Office 365, SQL Server, websites and more.

Once you have security measures in place to prevent ransomware, and a backup and data continuity solution in place to safeguard your data, you have reached a point where you never have a reason to pay a ransomware demand – even if you do get infected.

Need help implementing a security and data continuity plan for your business (or at home) to safeguard your important data and devices? Feel free to reach out to me using my Contact Page and I would be more than happy to discuss your needs, and provide possible solutions.