Over the past couple of years, the soaring number of ransomware attacks has made headlines countless times. Not only is ransomware being deployed more often, but the technology behind it advances each year, creating sophisticated attacks that strike without warning. Often, news coverage of ransomware attacks focuses on large-scale schemes affecting major corporations and their entire customer bases. However, these attacks also affect smaller organizations and individuals, so business owners need to understand the severity of the threat of ransomware attacks and how to best prevent them from affecting their business.
What is Ransomware?
To best prevent a ransomware attack, it’s critical to first understand this type of malware and how it works. The general term malware refers to any program created to infiltrate, steal, or damage a piece of technology. Within that broader group, malware can be broken down into more specific categories, like viruses and ransomware. The latter is unique because once it infiltrates your system, it locks or encrypts devices, networks, and/or files and data – demanding a ransom fee in return for the stolen items. Fees demanded by cyber attackers vary, mostly due to the size of the potential impact of the theft. With more than 4,000 ransomware attacks occurring daily for the past six years – business owners have a right to be concerned.
How Does Ransomware Attack?
Unfortunately, cyber attackers use many channels to launch ransomware attacks on individuals and businesses. Often, the malicious programs are sent via email, sometimes in links, and other times in attachments. Pop-up advertisements are another popular method, especially those that closely resemble reputable brands and websites, tricking users into clicking them. Another thing to note is that device users rarely can detect when a ransomware attack launches until it is too late and access to files or networks is removed.
What to do if you Experience a Ransomware Attack
It would be logical to assume that retrieving your stolen files/data when a ransom is demanded is to pay the demand. However, the FBI and security experts advise against paying in these cases, for a few core reasons. First, not all attackers follow through on their end of the deal. Even those who do are often not able to successfully and completely restore or decrypt all stolen information and files. Also, if organizations establish precedence for always paying these ransom fees, it will only further enable cyber criminals to continue the attacks. Lastly, many cyber attackers are a part of other criminal activity. Engaging with them in any capacity, even a simple financial transaction, could contribute to other illegal matters.
What other option do businesses have when a ransom is demanded? Alert your local FBI office of the incident. This helps them track attacks to try and determine potential sources. Then, follow the Ransomware Guide produced by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This guide provides comprehensive instructions on how to contain and eradicate a ransomware attack. The resource also provides several preventative measures businesses can take to limit the chance of falling victim to a ransomware attack in the future.
How to Protect Against Ransomware
Because paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee that a hacker decrypts your stolen data and files successfully, prevention is the best plan for protecting your important devices and digital data. Comprehensive backups of all of your company’s files and information should happen frequently. Storing backups at a secondary location adds another layer of protection. It’s important to note, however, that often hackers find ways to steal and encrypt all of an organization’s files – including backups. In these instances, even backups won’t always help.
Another critical step in protecting against ransomware attacks is partnering with a trusted, local IT provider. For small and mid-sized businesses, staffing an entire IT team isn’t always feasible. But, leaving IT left unmanaged also can’t happen, as a smooth IT infrastructure and communication system is critical for efficient business
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