On 12 May 2017, WannaCry hit the world. It was a ransomware attack that everybody said they would never forget.

By Henk Olivier, MD of Ozone Information Technology Solutions

Until June 2017 when a new Petya variant crippled organisations such as WPP and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The world held its collective breath – nuclear shouldn’t be hacked.

Then, just as Kaspersky revealed in an interview that more ransomware attacks were inevitable, LeakerLocker hit Android phones, threatening to send private information to all the contacts on the infected device. For anyone with even a smidgen of a private life, it was a cold trickle down the proverbial spine.

Unfortunately, many companies believe that they won’t be the target of such an attack. It’s a naïve view, and one that will rapidly change when a ransomware makes its inevitable way into their systems thanks to a lack of security protocol or plan. This reality is further impacted by the lack of insight and education in the market.

Many organisations don’t know what the best security solution should be for their business, they don’t understand which application is a good fit so, in the end, they don’t implement anything at all.

There is a dire need for security education. One of the most common issues is that the organisation doesn’t know what solution is best for their business. That is why IT partners can’t just advertise anymore. They need to provide a value-added service and knowledge, educating clients on solutions, not products.

The IT channel is poised on the edge of opportunity. Through education and support, partners can provide the market with the insight it needs to invest intelligently into security.

Corporate South Africa tends to be aware of the trends that affect or, in this case, infect, the rest of the world and most monitor the security breaches or outbreaks. The small to medium enterprise (SME) however, isn’t really paying attention to the screams of the affected and tend to only find out about a specific threat once it hits the mainstream news or they become a target themselves.

That said, whether behemoth of fledgling enterprise, there is an urgent need for the local market to become more aware of the risks and to be more invested in prevention.

The two most essential security tools for any business are an anti-virus installed on all devices and a basic firewall around internet connectivity. These tools prevent computers from becoming infected by a virus over email or a web browser.

Unfortunately, most ransomware are not detected by an anti-virus or blocked by a firewall as they are targeting operating system weaknesses. This makes it essential for the user to always install the latest security updates and patches. In addition, backup is as much a part of security as the anti-virus. If something does happen, you have your files backed up and the biggest inconvenience is downtime.

To understand precisely what security solutions should be implemented there are a few basic questions the business can ask to get the security ball rolling. The first is: how much of my business communication is via email or internet? If this is high volume, then have anti-virus on all computers and ensure it’s updated. Add a firewall, keep it activated and educate users around accessing unknown email content or clicking on unknown links.

The next question is: is my data stored locally or in the cloud? If in the cloud, ensure you have a copy or a backup and know the backup policy of your cloud storage provider. Not all cloud providers offer backup solutions so read that fine print, it could save your data. If your data is stored locally, have backup at all times. Not even the best security solutions in the world are a guarantee, so make one for yourself.

Do users have their own computers on the work network? This question is crucial. Make sure that those who bring their own computers understand the company usage policy and that they have basic security protocols in place.

Most attacks come from devices outside of a network that then connect to the company network. Large companies tend to implement solutions such as GFI Languard to monitor computer activity on the network and to determine if a device presents a potential risk. It’s also a good idea to install security patches and keep an eye on any devices that aren’t up to date. The same considerations apply if users take their work computers onto public networks or outside the office.

Does the business have an IT equipment usage policy that outlines the rules? This can prevent a significant amount of risk by informing users as to what they can and cannot do on a network, and educate them about internet and email threats.

The ultimate question is: what does security really mean for the business? And the answer from most companies is simple – not to get infected by a virus or become the victim of a cyber-attack.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, security has to be implemented, resources protected and risks assessed. Don’t just put a solution in place, do the research and find the options that are the perfect practical fit for your organisation. Security doesn’t have to be expensive, but the impact of a breach most definitely is.

Partners that provide solution-driven products rather than just productivity-driven ones are the ones who will benefit the most going forward.  There are too many off-the-shelf hardware and software solutions, and organisations can easily select a product and implement it.

For channel companies to stay in business and grow they need to have the knowledge around solutions-driven offerings. Many channel providers today find that the buyer has the power because there are just so many options and ways to purchase goods

In some instances, like anti-virus vendors, the customer purchases solutions directly, leaving distributors, resellers and channel partners out of the picture. This is not the scenario the channel wants to foster.  To gain on the market and the security trends that dominate it, the channel can eke out significant value by providing customers with support, delivering on knowledge and understanding into how security solutions work, and where they fit.