Another tax season, another rash of scammers trying to separate people and businesses from their hard-earned money.
While phone calls and snail mail are still popular methods among those trying to pull the wool over your eyes, the most ubiquitous threat in the digital age comes in the form of an email carrying ransomware.
Indeed, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued a warning to be on the lookout for an email scam impersonating their bureau. The email includes the IRS’s logo and contains text attempting to persuade the user to complete a downloadable questionnaire.
If the link is clicked, ransomware will be released into the computer. The owner will then be locked out of their files and forced to pay the hackers to regain access (unless they have their data backed up – more on that below).
Ransomware isn’t necessarily a new threat, but as digital technology continues to make us more connected and hackers become more adept, it’s an increasingly prominent one, seeing record growth in 2017. In fact, as of October 2017, 47 percent of businesses have been affected by ransomware.
Falling victim to ransomware is not only possible – it’s inevitable.
What if your dealership is the next target? What measures do you have in place to protect your most valuable assets?
While no form of cybersecurity has proven to be 100 percent effective (yet), here are five defensive measures that are effective, cost friendly, and easy to implement.
- Set up a Monitored Firewall
A monitored firewall is a defense mechanism that provides intrusion detection and prevention. Your system won’t be alone in fighting off cyber attacks. If there’s a problem, you’ll have someone watching and defending your system.
- Use Web Content Filtering
No employee is perfect. In their downtime, some employees may use your internet connection to listen to music or read news articles. Using the dealership’s internet for personal business can lead to ransomware infecting your network. With web content filtering, you can choose what pages employees are allowed to view while on the job.
- Back up Your Data Daily
Ransomware attackers are looking to hold important files hostage. If you’re infected but have data backed up off-site, you can restore your data from backups and carry on business as usual – without having to pay the ransom.
- Use Caution When Opening Emails
If you receive an unexpected email, wait to open it. Verify from the sender you were supposed to receive a message. Hackers know how to impersonate your contacts when sending malicious code.
Also, consider investing in employee education and training on best practices for interacting with emails. Taking advantage of human error is a prime method that hackers use to infiltrate your system. In the same vein, blocking personal email servers helps to minimize the risk of your system being exposed to something it shouldn’t be due to an employee’s private error.
- Research Suspicious Information
Any email or message telling you to “act now, or else” may be harmful to your computer. If you receive an email from, for example, the IRS, do your own research before following the instructions provided. Open a new browser window, search the name of the company and contact them via the phone number or contact information you find online to verify that the email is legitimate. Don’t simply trust the information provided in the email without doing your due diligence first.
Again, education and training for your employees on basic information technology (IT) security as well as how to spot malicious emails and what to do if one shows up in your inbox can go a long way in making your dealership more ransomware-proof.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that the total amount of ransomware payments is currently about $1 billion per year, while cybercrime in general could cost the world as much as $6 trillion annually by 2021.
These are eye-popping numbers that comically outweigh the cost of proactively securing your dealership.
While the silver bullet to shut down hackers may not exist yet, there is meaningful action you can take today: Implement these simple and effective defensive measures to better protect your data, your customers, and your operation.
About the Author
MariKyle Buechter is a Product Planning Manager at Reynolds and Reynolds for Networking, Document Archiving Solutions, and Name File Services. MariKyle, a graduate of the University of Dayton and Wright State University, has been with Reynolds for over seven years and has held various positions in the Product Planning department.
Author: Contributing Writer
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