Small surveying shops or in-the-field companies in industries like construction often operate with skeleton crews at their home offices. They ask office managers to load software and take care of the computers and the Internet, and they often operate without a trained IT person on staff.
In these casual IT environments, it’s common for computers to get old and for the operating systems that these computers run to get out of date. All of this shapes up to be an ideal environment for a ransomware attack like WannaCry, which affected millions of computers worldwide on May 12, 2017.
In a ransomware attack, the goal of the attackers is to hold your computers hostage by demanding a fee — say, $300 per computer — that you must pay them for each computer before they release control back to you. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will actually do this. The attackers typically target Windows-based computers because these are the machines that most businesses and individuals use.
“I estimate that enterprises worldwide are running around one quarter of a billion Windows-based machines,” says Sumir Karayi, CEO of 1E, which provides system lifecycle automation solutions.
When WannaCry struck on May 12, tech companies immediately sprang into action. They notified users to install the 17 critical security updates that are part of the Windows 10 operating system. Companies like Infrascale issued “survival guides” and Frank Jordan, Infrascale’s ransomware specialist, says, “Protection is time-sensitive and we will help you create a game plan that will protect your organization and its mission-critical data.”
These plans are fine for big companies. But what if you are a mom and pop surveyor or construction company and you can't afford a large IT effort?
“If you are running Windows 7 and not Windows 10, the process to update the operating system might take two to three hours per computer if you have to manually do this,” Karayi says.
This is tough for small companies and tougher yet for those that don't have resident IT specialists on staff.
Karayi says that cloud-based computing solutions that use wizards to take you through the security update process now enable non-IT users to perform these important security updates to systems — in the same way that users are already used to updating apps on their iPhones.
“Users can even do a full ‘wipe and load’ migration that wipes the disk of their computer clean, refor-mats it and installs a new operating system version (e.g., a migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10),” Karayi says. “The cloud-based software backs up your core data, so you can reinstall it after the new operating system is installed.”
Does this solve everything?
There are still other security issues that concern smartphones, drones, sensors and other computerized devices that surveyors and others use, and that could potentially become infected by malware or a virus. However, a portal-based walk-you-through-it means of keeping your server, desktop and laptop operating systems up to date for security can go a long way in guaranteeing peace of mind.
“We don't know what the future holds, but what we do know is that at some point your company is likely to experience a security breach,” Karayi says. “For reasons like these, companies need tools that can help IT and end users stay current with their operating systems and apps.”