There is a tremendous advantage to having a paperless, mobile office. You can work from anywhere, any time, and can act quickly to keep your deals alive. It also makes your business a victim of cybercrime. Ransomware is rapidly becoming a common – and profitable – tool for criminals. Most frequently it comes in the form of an infected email or a malicious web site disguised as something entirely different. If your computer becomes infected with ransomware, the program will encrypt critical files or your entire hard drive. You’ll find yourself locked out of your system, losing access to photos, contracts, and client contacts. Once the encryption is in place, you’ll get a message that you need to pay if you want to access your files again, and most often payments must be made in Bitcoin.
If you fall victim to ransomware, deciding whether to pay the criminals for the unlock key is a tough decision. After all, the more victims that pay, the more common this crime becomes. On the other hand, if your business depends on having access to those files, you might not have much choice. There is no guarantee that the cybercriminals will actually release your files, or that the decryption process will work on your computer. And there’s a good chance that you have other malware or viruses on your computer in addition to the ransomware. You should certainly report the crime to the police before you do anything. If you do manage to get your computer unlocked, it’s vital that you make sure it’s clean from viruses and malware before you start using it again.
You can protect yourself and your clients by regularly backing up your files. Use an online service to back them up for the best protection, or back up files on external drives that are then disconnected from your system. You can restore your files to a wiped computer if necessary. Remember to test your backups to make sure they work before an issue arises. Make sure that you routinely update your malware and anti-virus protection software. And if your computer is asking for a system update, don’t put it off. System updates will often offer some protection against the latest malware codes. Using a cloud-based server for the majority of your business files will offer you protection as well. You’ll be able to access your files from another device even if your primary device becomes locked.
Protect yourself from malware attacks in the first place by using an abundance of caution when opening email. Don’t open suspicious emails or click on links that come from unknown sources. Email hackers will often make it look like the email comes from a known source, like your friends or your bank. If the email seems a little off, or if it’s confusing, don’t click on a link in it. Call the sender or go directly to their website and connect with their customer service to verify the information in the email first.
Learn more about protecting your business, your identity, and your health during the annual MetroTex Wellness Month in October. Sign up for the MetroTex REALTOR Safety Training Course here, and join us throughout the month for more great events. We’ll lunch and learn with our favorite personal trainer, join the Race for the Cure, and donate at the Carter Blood Care drive. Stay safe, stay well and do good with MetroTex!