A ransomware attack can result in permanent data loss, intellectual property theft, privacy breaches and reputational damage for Brock employees and the greater University community.
In 2021, colleges and universities worldwide experienced a surge in ransomware attacks, and some incurred significant operational and financial costs.
As part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Brock Information Technology Services (ITS) is educating the University community with information and tips that can help protect technology users’ identities and data.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts files to block access to information unless the infected user pays a ransom. When hit with a ransomware attack, users can lose access to their important files, apps and computer. In most cases, it is impossible to recover the encrypted files without payment, and even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee the files will be recovered.
Types of ransomware attacks
The most prevalent ransomware attacks are executed via phishing emails or security holes:
- Phishing emails — Attackers use phishing emails to deliver ransomware files to a victim via an attachment or a link to download. Once the ransomware file is downloaded and executed, the victim’s files are encrypted.
- Security holes — Attackers exploit security holes in a victim’s computer to compromise or gain control of the computer without needing to trick the victim. Once the computer is compromised, the attackers can execute ransomware that encrypts the victim’s files.
When a computer is infected with ransomware, attackers may try to infect and gain access to other users and computers.
How to prevent ransomware attacks
The following tips improve users’ defence against ransomware attacks:
- Ensure antivirus software is installed on computer systems and that it’s up to date.
- Keep operating systems and all software up to date.
- Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments or emails from unfamiliar people and organizations.
- Do not visit unknown websites and be careful of clicking on links.
- Only install software from trusted sources, such as Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Microsoft Store.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, since many of them are not secure.
- Regularly backup important files, preferably in the cloud such as OneDrive.
It is important users act quickly if they suspect they’ve been hit with a ransomware attack. Immediately disconnect the affected computer from the network by unplugging the network cable or disconnecting from the Wi-Fi to minimize damage and stop the spread of the ransomware. Even if the device has not been completely affected, turn it off to help contain the attack and prevent further damage and data loss. Once the affected computer has been isolated, contact the ITS Help Desk at 905-688-5550 x4357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions about ransomware attacks can be directed to email@example.com