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Guest opinion: How dealers can protect themselves from a cyber attack

Karen McKenzie Dragon2000

Industry experts are warning of a worrying trend of ransomware variants becoming more complex and spreading more quickly.

Petya, a form of ransomware is the latest global cyber attack which was first reported in Ukraine at the end of June targeting businesses, banks and government departments.

It then spread via internal networks as well as a phishing campaign with victims opening emails with malware attachments, seriously disrupting several large companies in the US and Europe.

The virus, a piece of malicious software, shut down computer systems and then demanded $300 to fix the problem. 

The attack comes weeks after the WannaCry hack, which affected more than 150 countries and crippled the NHS in March.

Petya is more potent than WannaCry, as it encrypted the hard drive file system, rather than individual files, preventing Windows from booting up altogether.

In March 2017, Microsoft became aware of a weakness in its Windows operating systems that could be exploited by such viruses, and a security update was released to fix it.

Users that still haven’t run the update are leaving themselves vulnerable to this particular attack – if their pc is not set to automatically download and apply updates, they may not even be aware that they are at risk.

Dealers can easily take steps to protect themselves from cyber attack, with some of the safeguards being as simple as updating operating systems. 

Dealers need to ensure that they run the Microsoft updates which will help to protect their computers from an attack.

It is also imperative that dealers back up their files. If dealers have all their business data on a local server that is not regularly backed-up and it suffers a hardware failure, then they are in the same boat as a ransomware victim. 

Should dealers be infected with a ransomware virus, there is no guarantee their files will be released even if they do pay up – the only remedy is to have a backup of files, so infected machines can be wiped and files can be restored.

Dealers that are using a DMS locally installed, or are running an older non-hosted dealer management system, need to ensure they are taking backups at least daily. 

They should also ensure that their business network and machines are secure by keeping them up to date.

Tips on how can dealers protect themselves:

  • Take regular backups of local data
  • Ensure Windows updates are enabled to automatically download and apply
  • Keep anti-virus software up to date
  • Use a firewall to protect your network router
  • Educate your staff on recognising suspect emails, if in doubt, don’t open the attachment or click the link.

Author: Karen McKenzie (pictured), operations manager, Dragon2000

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