Schools Need to Protect Against Ransomware

Image via TCEA

Image via TCEA

Ransomware attacks seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays, and they are not something to be taken lightly. Fortunately, IT professionals in K-12 schools have several options available to help keep their networks safe.

Backups are the first defense to keep hackers from profiting from a ransomware attack — a strike that locks down a server’s data through high-level encryption. Being unprepared could cost a district significant time and money.

Last September, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team advised users and administrators alike to perform regular backups of all critical information and store them on an offline device or computer. Obviously, the more recent the backup, the quicker the recovery process, should a K–12 school district fall victim to such an attack.

Be on the Lookout for New Threats

US-CERT also advise users and administrators to maintain current versions of both operating system and anti-virus software, and to keep abreast of any patches released in response to any new forms of ransomware. Directives should be issued against following unsolicited web links in email and opening suspicious email attachments, and users must be taught to adopt safe practices when browsing the internet, they say.

OS Settings are Your Friend

Microsoft has also weighed in on the issue. Computers running Windows should have legal copies of the operating system installed, and they should be registered. Microsoft won’t be able to send updates, including security patches, to anyone using pirated versions of the OS.

The software giant adds that users who take advantage of public Wi-Fi should select the public network setting on the computer when they connect. That setting will close a number of vulnerable software ports.

The No More Ransom (NMR) project (a joint initiative of the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’s police, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security) suggests enabling the “show file extensions” options on Windows computers and recommends quickly disconnecting any computer or device suspected of being infected from the internet or any network connections.

Don’t Let Hackers Win

US-CERT says victims of a ransomware attack should always report it to the FBI. If the computer is infected, do not pay the ransom. Many instances of ransomware are actually something more, and paying the ransom does not guarantee that your computer will be decrypted.

As always, be safe and stay cautious. Following these steps will make your school computers safe and happy for years to come.

(Story via Ed Tech)