Valley First

Data kidnapping a growing concern

Businesses and residents targeted by "ransomware"

Oct. 14, 2015

Penticton, B.C. — Online extortion schemes that hold computer data—holiday photos, school assignments, business records and everything in between—for  ransom are becoming all too common in the homes and businesses of British Columbians in the Southern Interior.

Known as ransomware, this type of virus infects a user’s computer by placing an inaccessible net of encryption around computer files. The virus then demands payment to release the files before they are permanently deleted. A recent Intel security report shows an explosion in ransomware incidents—cases were up 165 per cent over the first quarter of 2015.

“Ransomware is extremely damaging and there is very little you can do once a machine is infected,” says security analyst John Holbrook, who oversees technology security at First West Credit Union’s Valley First division. “Like most viruses, it can be delivered by visits to malicious websites, infected ads or downloaded from email phishing schemes.”

A ransomware infection could be potentially devastating to a small business owner. As offices and business around the province become increasingly paperless, the need for education and protection has never been greater.

“Having secure back-ups of files that are completely offline is your only hope once infected,” says Holbrook. “But, that’s also not a viable option for many business owners.

“Avoiding infection is critical, so all of the usual precautions apply,” he adds. “Maintain up-to-date anti-virus protection, apply software patches as soon as they become available, avoid suspicious ads or untrusted websites and do not open email from unknown sources.”

Holbrook advises it’s smart for business owners to remain vigilant when it comes to IT security.

“There’s no such thing as being too small or too local. If you’re online, you’re vulnerable. It’s best to be informed and protected.”

About Valley First

Valley First is a premier provider of banking, investment and insurance services for residents and businesses in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. As a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union with 54 branches and 38 insurance offices throughout the province, Valley First brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision making to the banking experience. For more information on Valley First, visit www.valleyfirst.com.

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