Why Vancouver Architectural Firms Need Defence against Ransomware

In March 2020, Architectural Record warned of the danger of ransomware to architectural firms.

A month later, Zaha Hadid Architects in London made the news as it suffered a ransomware attack. Fortunately, the firm had good backup practices and didn’t suffer any permanent data loss. The event serves as a reminder that architectural firms worldwide risk losing crucial data if they don’t have strong data protection.

Internet attackers don’t care about national boundaries. Online criminals around the world can target architectural businesses in Vancouver and elsewhere in British Columbia.

Ransomware risks

Ransomware encrypts files, making them unusable. The perpetrators demand payment, usually with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, as the price of decrypting them. There is no guarantee that payment will get the files restored, and paying the ransom gives criminals more resources for subsequent attacks.

The architectural business relies heavily on computer-aided design and presentation tools. Losing the design files for a project can mean having to redo days or weeks of work, missing deadlines. Presentation tools using augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) won’t show customers the latest revisions. The data loss can also impact contracts and correspondence.

Malicious data encryption maybe just a distraction from the real aim of an attack. While the IT department focuses on recovering the files, it may not realize that copies were sent to the perpetrator’s servers. Trade secrets and clients’ confidential information may be stolen. Stealing data while encrypting the owner’s files is an increasingly common practice, giving criminals two ways to benefit.

The cost of recovering from ransomware can be very high. The number of attacks surged in late 2019 and all of 2020, and conservative estimates say that at least a billion dollars in damage resulted. This doesn’t count victims who didn’t publicly report incidents. The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity reports ransomware as a growing threat in Canada, with the average demand in the first quarter of 2020 rising to $148,700.

Defences against ransomware

It’s often possible to recover damaged files without paying an extortion fee. The best course, though, is to prevent attacks from happening.

Defence against ransomware has two aspects. The first is reliable and frequent backups. The strategy should include an offsite backup; ransomware often seeks out any disk drives attached to a computer and encrypts them along with the main storage. The more frequent the backup interval is, the less chance there is of serious data loss.

The other part of ransomware protection is system security. Strong passwords, a well-configured firewall, and anti-malware software form parts of a defence in depth against intrusion attempts. Employees should be alert to a suspicious email, and spam filters should keep hostile messages from reaching inboxes.

Keeping security strong

Most architecture firms can’t afford a full-time computer security specialist. Their best course is to outsource data security to a reliable managed services company. Compunet provides managed IT and security services, and serving the architecture business is one of our specialties. Compunet won the Channel Elite Best Cloud Computing Solution award in 2017 for its “architect in a box” technology. We understand the business and its special requirements. We can serve as your outsourced IT department in the greater Vancouver area. Depending on your needs and current staff, we can handle all aspects of your network or assist with the more difficult functions, such as security.

Your business is providing customers with the best designs for their buildings. Don’t let ransomware and other Internet threats keep you from delivering them reliably. Get in touch to learn how we can help protect your data at an affordable price.