A few thoughts worth sharing
Malicious software can be downloaded unknowingly to a person’s computer through phishing emails containing infected attachments or even drive-by downloading. This occurs when a user is on a malware-infected website. The malicious software is downloaded without the person even knowing something has been added to their computer, device, or system network.
When a person’s computer or device is infected with malware, all the data and systems that are a part of that network are at risk. Ransomware is a specific malicious software that actually holds a person’s information at ransom.
Yes, this is ransom in the truest sense of the word, as you probably think. A user whose computer or device is infected by ransomware loses complete access to files, data, or network systems until a ransom is paid. Hackers design ransomware software to make files unusable and inaccessible until payment is made (and sometimes, the damage is never undone even after payment). This also makes ransomware a cybercrime.
Another aspect of ransomware is that a hacker will threaten to publish sensitive account or user information unless money is forthcoming. Ransomware is not just a threat to individuals; major companies worldwide have been subject to these types of cyberattacks, including hospitals, banks, media outlets, police departments, car dealerships, and financial corporations.
Ransomware: By The Numbers
The first occurrence of ransomware can actually be traced back to the late 1980s, and, unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common.
Hackers are extremely talented, creative, and hard to trace. One of the reasons they are so difficult to find is because payments are often demanded in non-traditional currencies such as cryptocurrency or even gift cards.
Devices of all types can be subject to a ransomware attack. There are reports of businesses being more susceptible because so many employees are now working from home networks. Panda Security actually states that “ransomware attacks surged by 148% in March of 2020.”
The financial impact of a business affected by ransomware is significant, and not just because of the ransom price tag. When a user’s hard drive, company’s system network, data files, or staff emails are compromised, work comes to a screeching halt.
Data loss, productivity loss, brand damage, etc., all come with a high price tag. No business can afford to come to a standstill, and the hackers know it. The FBI Internet Crime Reports state that around 4,000 ransomware cases occur EVERY DAY. Organizations affected by ransomware attacks risk losing hundreds of thousands to multiple millions of dollars. For example, in 2021, Kia Motors was attacked, and the ransom demanded was in Bitcoins which equated to about USD 20 million. Another example was the DC Police Department which was threatened with the release of over 200+ GB of data, including sensitive information like informant identification. The hackers demanded USD 4 million.
How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack
Since ransomware is a type of malware, the best prevention is cybersecurity awareness and training.
There are many ways to help prevent a ransomware attack that is applicable for businesses, large and small, and individual users:
• Email protection gateways
• Intrusion detection systems
• Anti-malware and anti-ransomware installation
• Firewall protection
• Training staff to understand the risks of email phishing and malicious URLs and attachments
• Guidelines and best practices for staff who identify a cybersecurity issue or suspicious activity
• Mobile device management and alerts (remember that malware doesn´t just attack computers and laptops – tablets and smartphones are also at risk)
• Strong password management systems
• Best practices for working at home and setting guidelines for allowable networks and devices
• Ensuring regular data backups
• Having a data recovery system in place
• Cybersecurity services through third-party monitoring systems
• Ensuring updates are run systematically across networks and devices
What to Do When Hackers Hold Your Data Ransom
If a business or individual has been the victim of a ransomware attack, the FBI clearly states that it “does not support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you or your organization will get any data back. It also encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.”
There are many fact sheets, resources, and even tip lines available for victims of these types of cyberattacks (and any cyberattack for that matter).
On a company level, the next step is to isolate the incident before it spreads even further and affects more devices, networks, or systems. There are also consultants and specialty service providers who support businesses in the case of a cyberattack. This level of service can help a company analyze where the breach occurred, allow secure data backups, get devices back online safely and employees back to work. It can also provide data security next steps for the future.
Protect Yourself, Your Employees, and Your Business
Ransomware is a genuine and relevant risk to businesses. It was actually named one of the top cyber threats in 2021. And with COVID-19 still impacting working environments, reducing ransomware risk is something companies need to think through.
Data breaches can completely cripple a business, and technological advancements have truly made this world of ours small.
Ransomware attacks occur across the world. Just because your company is in the United States doesn´t mean a hacker from another country can´t affect your online network. Protecting your devices and systems from malware like ransomware should be a top priority and an ongoing part of your day-to-day operations.
Many data breaches occur because an employee opens an email on a company server that they shouldn’t have but didn’t know better. Setting your employees up for success in their office and work environment can make all the difference in reducing a security breach. In addition, the importance of supporting staff by rolling out cyberattack-specific training, resources, and best practices cannot be overstated.
If you want to protect your St Joseph business from malicious software, we can help. Contact the security specialists at ProServ Business Systems today for more information.