Calgary IT Company Advises Businesses to Guard Against Ransomware

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Attacks on Office 365 products means ransomware is becoming more and more dangerous for businesses.

In light of the recent massive cyber attack on Office 365 products, Calgary businesses utilizing Office and other software products need to prepare for and guard against threats posed by ransomware, advises Calgary IT specialist and Frontier Solutions Inc. President Terry Rowsell.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that is designed to block access to a computer program, whether software or specific documents, until the owner of the program or document pays ransom to the perpetrator, whether in bitcoins or other currency.

The so-called “Zero Day” attack perpetrated on Office 365 between March and June of 2016 by what has been dubbed “Cerber” malware, was reportedly spread mainly by phishing emails, complete with a “spooky” audio warning. Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as passwords, user names and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

Global IT security firm TrendMicro has reported that Cerber is a ransomware-as -a service (RaaS) that is sold to other enterprising criminals, and that it targets Office documents, photos, and other files by encrypting them and then asking for ransom to decrypt the files.

The attack on Office 365, which many people previously considered to be infallible, is a major wake-up call for North American businesses. While Microsoft responded quickly to thwart the attack on Office in June, Rowsell notes it is clear that all businesses, whether in Calgary or elsewhere, can no longer ignore threats including ransomware and phishing.

Rowsell suggests that user awareness is the number one defense against ransomware, and that virus protection has proven insufficient when it comes to serious threats such as ransomware. He recommends two key steps local businesses can take to protect themselves against and prevent ransomware: “First, educate your staff on the dangers of phishing emails and malicious websites. Second, perform frequent backups to a device that is not physically connected to your servers."

Avanan, an Israeli software security firm which originally detected the Cerber ransomware, claims that some 57% of organizations using Office 365 on their platform were reportedly targeted at least once by the malware. The University of Calgary was among local organizations that fell prey to ransomware during late May and early June, and it chose to pay a large sum of money to receive its information back from the attackers.

Rowsell advises those who are affected by a ransomware cyberattack to not pay ransom: “It (ransomware) is created and distributed by criminals. Every dollar spent on paying a ransom goes toward funding the development of bigger and badder ransomware.”

Frontier Solutions Inc. (FSI) is a Calgary, Alberta- based information technology (IT) company established in 1995, specializing in managed IT services, IT strategy and IT support for small to medium-sized businesses in the Calgary area.


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Terry Rowsell

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