Malware protection is something every business must take seriously. Source: Shutterstock

Malware protection is something every business must take seriously. Source: Shutterstock

McAfee Chief Scientist: Guard against ransomware or prepare to shut down

BY DEFINITION, ransomware is a piece of code or software that is designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer — especially one in a corporate environment, with plenty of valuable data on it.

Ransomware protection seems complicated but experts insist that taking just a few steps such as investing in a  scanning and removal tool, installing a strong firewall, and applying software patches and updates as they become available, are enough to appear as less attractive targets to hackers.

In an exclusive interview with Tech Wire Asia at the McAfee MPOWER 2019 Cybersecurity Summit in Las Vegas, McAfee Fellow and Chief Scientist Raj Samani explained why there should be a sense of urgency in the market when companies think about ransomware protection.

“The threat is growing at an alarming rate because it’s becoming more lucrative and more profitable every day. If businesses aren’t protecting themselves, then they’re going to be exposed.”

Samani referred to the simultaneous ransomware attacks on 22 rural cities and towns in Texas, USA seven hospitals in Australia, and 3 hospitals in Alabama, USA and highlighted how catastrophic the damages could be.

The cities were left crippled as their digital infrastructure was locked by the attack while the hospitals were forced to turn away patients, threatening the lives of hundreds if not thousands.

Irrespective of whether or not the entities pay the ransom, the damage has been done — and others that continue to neglect to protect themselves against ransomware will find themselves in similar positions in the near future.

“This is the cost of doing business in the digital age. The internet is a wonderful thing and benefits businesses immensely, but businesses need to take responsibility for their systems and protect themselves.”

Samani emphasized the fact that companies need to realize the value of the data that sits in their computers, on their networks, and in their cloud applications — doing so will help them assess the risk and determine whether or not it is worth putting together a strategy to defend against ransomware.

Samani, who works closely with government agencies such as Europol and others suggests that business leaders explore not-for-profit projects such as No More Ransomware if they want to gain a better understanding of what really happens when their systems are infected.

No More Ransomware, for example, helps users affected with about a dozen or so kinds of ransomware decrypt their systems and get on with better protecting themselves in the future — however, not all kinds of Ransomware are easy to combat without making the payment demanded, with bitcoins.

McAfee and other cybersecurity specialists are joining forces to help customers battle ransomware, and as a result, are making significant investments to provide advice and tools to businesses.

Continuing to neglect the risks posed by ransomware, failing to assess the damage it can do, and ignoring the advice of experts to protect the business against the most rapidly growing and profitable threat on the internet is unacceptable.

“It’s up to businesses, really, but the choice isn’t between protecting themselves or not, the choice is between doing business in the digital age and potentially shutting down at some point in the near future,” concluded Samani.