What is Ransomware?

What is Ransomware?

Over the past number of months, we have seen a large increase in cyber-attacks. One of the most common types of these attacks is Ransomware but many are unsure what it is, how it affects companies and most importantly how we can protect ourselves against it.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious program that encrypts files on the user’s PC. Once encrypted, users will not be able to access their files and the hackers will demand payment – or a ransom – to de-crypt the files. This fee can range from a few hundred to several thousand Euros.

Ransomware usually arrives in the form of an innocent looking email with an attachment. When the user opens the attachment or clicks on a link in the email, it connects to the hacker’s server and begins to encrypt files on the user’s computer.


You should do the following to maximise your defence against ransomware:

  1. Don’t use “free” email addresses.
  • Use of free email addresses for business (such as @eircom.net, @hotmail.com, @gmail.com, etc.) is not recommended as they are the least secure type of address and are often targeted by hackers.


  1. Use a managed email service with filtering.
  • You should use a managed email service for your business email, e.g. yourdomain.ie, and ensure that it is properly filtered. Many companies use their website hosting for email addresses but this does not mean that the email is properly filtered for viruses and spam.


  1. Prevent users from accessing personal email at work.
  • Discourage your staff from accessing personal email addresses (mentioned in point 1 above) on work PCs.


  1. Educate your users
  • Educate your staff fully on what to look out for in terms of suspicious email. If you are in doubt about the validity of a certain email always contact your IT support provider to get it checked. Always err on the side of caution.


  1. Business grade anti-virus software.
  • Ensure all devices in your business are running business grade anti-virus software. Free anti-virus should not be used on work PCs as they do not provide adequate protection.


  1. Use a firewall.
  • Protect your network with a suitable firewall and ensure it has the ability to filter traffic coming in to and out of your network. The router/modem provided by your Internet service provider (Eir, etc.) do not offer adequate protection.


  1. Ensure all PC’s & servers are properly updated.
  • You should not be running any PC with Windows XP, or a server with Windows Server 2003. These are no longer supported and as a result security updates are not available for them. Even if you are running more recent versions of operating systems you need to ensure that they are fully up to date with latest security releases applied.


  1. Have an off-site backup service in place.
  • Have a secure, encrypted and managed off-site backup service in place. In the worst case scenario that you do fall victim to ransomware you will be able to retrieve your data. If you only backup data onsite (to a hard drive etc.) in unencrypted form then this likely to be rendered useless by a ransomware attack.


By putting in place all the above, you will maximise your defence against these attacks. You may have some or all in place but if you wish to get your site risk assessed please let us know and we can arrange same. We also provide all the managed services mentioned above.

If you have a query on any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll gladly advise.

If you have any concerns or would like more information, contact us on 1890 48 33 78 and ask for Darragh. Alternatively, you can email info@myitdepartment.ie