One click on the wrong link is enough to let a nasty ransomware code wreak havoc on your computer and encrypt your files by force. After that, you know the drill — it’s either pay up or forget about your data.
What makes ransomware attacks such a force to be reckoned with, why are they growing in numbers, and what can your company do to stay safe? Keep reading to find the answers to these questions.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the user’s files and asks for a ransom. More often than not, there is a deadline attached to it, coupled with a threat to delete your data if you refuse. The preferred target is anyone willing to take the bait – businesses and individuals alike.
Are ransomware attacks on the rise?
Not only are cyber-attacks on the rise, but the crooks behind them are also on the winning side of the battle. At one point, even BBC succumbed to a ransomware attack that came down to them shelling out $530,000 to get their data back. In Bitcoin, of course, as it makes it almost impossible to track down the recipient. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that only the big-name companies are interesting to them. Everyone is a potential target.
The steps you need to take to protect your business
There is no foolproof way to stay safe. But if you implement the following measures, you’re going to become a much tougher nut for them to crack:
1. Update your software on a regular basis
It’s a cybersecurity essential that’s often neglected, but no less true. Moreover, an updated antivirus scanner tends to be more effective. It also helps you check for suspicious file changes and odd system behavior such as massive encryption that appears out of the blue.
2. Monitor your network
By monitoring your network traffic, you can detect when something is out of the ordinary. In some cases, it may be indicative of hackers breaching your security defenses and a strong hint that you should act asap.
3. Scan your emails
Hackers like to take advantage of the weakest link in your cybersecurity strategy – the human factor. Therefore, it’s crucial to scan and filter the emails before they reach your employees. It can stop various phishing and ransomware campaigns in their tracks.
4. Have a response plan in place
What good is a sound business plan if you don’t have a solid answer for a ransomware attack? It shouldn’t only cover the technical aspect of cleaning up your system and restoring your data. Also, include the business aspect of communicating the incident to your loyal base of customers.
5. Think twice before paying up
Have you been diligent enough and made regular backups? Then wiping your system and restoring files is a preferable course of action to paying the ransom. Cybercriminals are not in any way, shape, or form obligated to give you the decryption key anyway. Besides, there are ransomware decryption tools you can try first, with paying the ransom being the absolute last resort. At the same time make sure you have cyber security attack insurance in place.
6. Actively work on protecting your data
As you must have figured by now, regular backups are one way to prevent the terrible consequences of ransomware. You should make multiple backups while you’re at it. It’s a good idea to store some of them offline, where no malware can reach it.
But backups don’t stop cybercriminals from making stolen data public. Also, apply a level of encryption to data stored on the hard drives, clouds, or anywhere else.
7. Realise that every device is a potential target
If your company uses IoT devices, these could be a potential attack vector. The more of them you have, the higher the risk. Once one of them gets infected, expect it to attempt to infect the others.
8. Educate your staff
Invest in cyber security education of your employees so they can recognise a suspicious-looking email that contains ransomware. The basic principle is not opening emails from senders that you don’t know. The same goes for clicking on suspicious links inside of an email – don’t.
9. Replace the default passwords
More often than not, IoT devices come with a default password that many don’t bother to change. It is like sending an open invitation for hackers to come in. So, don’t take the chance and replace them.
10. Keep your systems up to date
As you can learn from the example of WannaCry, many computers running Windows XP were compromised due to the operating system being out of date. The lesson is, taking the time needed to update your systems is well worth the effort.
If you apply the tips laid out above, you should be reasonably safe from ransomware attacks. So stay alert, keep learning, and you will avoid a cyber disaster.