Of the many worries plaguing business owners, one that they must always be prepared to address is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that misfits use to take over your device. It can encrypt your data and make it impossible for you to access it. Because of the potential implications for businesses, owners are motivated to pay the hacker ransom to get access back.
This type of cyberattack can be incredibly disruptive for businesses. Ransomware attacks are common, occurring every 40 seconds. The problem is not going away, either. The frequency of these attacks increased by three times from 2016 to 2017.
Here is what you need to know about ransomware and how you can protect yourself.
What to Know About a Data Breach: Definition
A data breach occurs when someone without authorization accesses confidential information. In many situations, customer information may be compromised. The average cost to companies to deal with the aftermath of a data breach is $3.86 million.
Types of Data Breaches
There are several different ways that hackers may breach your computer system and access information without your authorization. Some of the most common types of data breaches include:
This type of data breach occurs when a hacker is able to take control over the victim’s device and holds their data hostage until a ransom is paid. This type of attack often occurs through clicking on an email message, social media message or malicious website link.
Malware like spyware and viruses steals information from others’ systems, compromising business and personal information. The most common avenue to deliver malware is email.
A phishing attack usually occurs when a criminal sends a victim an email by using a trusted sender’s name or email address. Once the recipient clicks on a link in the email or downloads an attachment, their system is compromised with a virus.
- Denial of Service
A denial of service attack shuts down a computer system or network by sending so much traffic that the server is unable to handle or by using multiple systems at multiple locations to attack the network. This type of attack may be used to try to lock employees, customers, or business owners from accessing the site.
There are other types of data breaches beyond those listed above. The commonality between these breach types is that they take advantage of a computer or network vulnerability to infiltrate it and steal information.
Data Breach Risk Factors
Before you can make strides toward reducing the risk of a data breach, it is important that you understand the risk factors that may make your company more vulnerable to attack. These risk factors include:
- User error
You have to provide access to your business information to some employees. However, not all employees are knowledgeable about technology or potential cyber threats. They may make mistakes like sending information to untrusted recipients, clicking on links from unknown senders, or uploading data to an unprotected location. In other cases, disgruntled employees intentionally try to harm the company by releasing confidential data.
- Mobile device vulnerability
Many more people use their mobile devices to access online information than in previous years. However, mobile devices may not always have the same antivirus protections installed on them, making them more vulnerable to possible cyberattacks. Mobile ransomware attacks increased 2.5 times in 2017 over the number of attacks in 2016. Some types of attacks make it incredibly easy for attackers to target mobile users, such as RaaS which provides ransomware to criminals for free or a small fee. These criminals do not have to have much technical knowledge to take advantage of this and harm businesses.
- Compromised web pages
A business owner may inadvertently download a virus or malware by visiting compromised web pages. If the owner’s system is vulnerable due to an out of date browser, application, or operating system, a download may automatically be installed on the device.
- Weak passwords
Businesses that have simple passwords that hackers may be able to guess can have their systems easily overtaken by hackers.
Understanding these risk factors can help you to take steps to remedy them and increase your cybersecurity. Some ways to combat potential attacks include:
- Use strong passwords that are unique and complex
- Apply additional controls over who has access to your company data
- Purchase reliable anti-malware and firewall software designed to protect against viruses, malware, and data breaches
- Keep your software and applications up to date and install patches to help address security sensitivities
- Teach your staff about ways to safeguard your business data, how to avoid being infected by phishing or malware, the importance of not sharing passwords, and the importance of avoiding unsecure sites
- Use software or tools for monitoring your identity so that you can learn as quickly as possible if your data has been compromised
- Use 24/7 monitoring tools including remote monitoring to keep a watchful eye over your business at all times
- Regularly back up your data
- Create new device policies that protect your business
Ransomware and its Impact on Businesses
Ransomware can wreak havoc on your business. The intent of this type of attack is to prevent access to your important company data so that you get frustrated and pay a ransom. Once a ransomware attack occurs, users can be denied access to all of their data. In many cases, the business owner permanently loses its company data. While business owners hope that they will regain access to their systems by paying a ransom, statistics show that in 2018, 45% of U.S. businesses that were victims of a ransomware attack paid the ransom, but only 26% of these companies had their files unlocked. This shows that even paying the ransom will not necessarily result in regained access to important business data. Additionally, even if ransom is paid, businesses should assume that their data is still compromised and will need to take steps to remedy this data breach. Their systems may be infected with other types of malware as part of this attack.
Potential negative impacts of being a victim of ransomware include:
- Temporary loss of access to data that decreases business productivity or stalls business activity
- Loss of profits due to the decreased business activity
- Damage to the business’ reputation
- Permanent loss of business data
- Loss of crucial business information
- Continued cyberattacks on the business
When businesses lose access to their digital data and systems on which they rely, the results are often catastrophic. Realizing these potential repercussions can encourage you to find new ways on how to avoid and prepare for a possible ransomware attack.
How to Prepare for a Ransomware Attack
Only 4% of businesses report that they feel prepared to deal with a ransomware attack. Approximately 75% of targeted businesses do not have the proper security measures in place to avoid a ransomware attack. These statistics highlight the importance of businesses considering their vulnerabilities and adopting new methods to protect their business against possible ransomware attacks.
The first step to be prepared for a ransomware attack is to have an up to date backup. The attackers leverage their control over your system, but with a current backup, you can regain access to your important data more quickly.
Your business should also have a disaster recovery plan in place so that you know what to do in case this situation arises. You can work with trusted IT professionals to help develop a plan in case disaster strikes.
Your business may need to modify its IT budget to ensure that you can purchase the necessary firewall and cybersecurity programs so that you are better equipped to defend yourself against these attacks.
Another purchase that you may consider making is in cybersecurity insurance. This type of insurance helps businesses protect themselves from the consequences of online attacks and the potential liability that may result if they are found responsible for a data breach. Only 15% of U.S. businesses have this important type of insurance in place. In contrast, hackers are constantly learning new ways to hack computer systems and devices, as well as overcome the most common types of defenses business owners may implement. Investing in cybersecurity insurance may help mitigate the risk of a possible data breach. The particular protection and price of a cybersecurity insurance policy will depend on your particular risk of attack and the potential financial impact an attack would have on your and your business.
A ransomware attack on your business can be extremely disruptive, potentially resulting in the temporary or permanent loss of important data and the loss of productivity caused by lack of access to your system. Most importantly, your business’ reputation may be compromised if customers believe their data is not safe with you. However, through ongoing identity monitoring, education, and a strong defense, you can minimize or prevent such attacks from occurring in the first place.
BIO: David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at idstrong.com. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.