How to Avoid and Combat Ransomware
Ransomware attacks often cause a cascade of negative effects on businesses. There is, of course, the ransom that may or may not release systems and data held hostage, but lost productivity and downtime can be even greater business killers.
What Exactly Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is malicious software that is designed to hold your data or systems for ransom. That’s the simplest explanation. The problem is that such a simple approach can cause dramatic negative consequences for affected businesses. Instead of using the word “simple,” a hacker might describe ransomware as an elegant way to steal from businesses.
In May of 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack spread around the world, infecting businesses and public institutions as one of the most successful cyber attacks of all time. Once infected, WannaCry searched for and encrypted critical files on each system and then prompted the user to pay a ransom of $300 in Bitcoin.
This, on its own, is not a tremendous amount of money, but consider that no one at the time knew if a paid ransom would result in their files actually being decrypted and made accessible. Further, if they were made accessible, who’s to say that their systems couldn’t be locked up again?
Herein lies the true damage that ransomware attacks can cause. First, there is the ransom itself. More damaging, at least potentially, is the disruption to normal business that it will cause. System downtime can cost businesses tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per day, so many businesses, especially smaller ones that don’t have sufficient IT support, could be at risk of closing their doors.
How Is Ransomware Delivered?
The most common way to become infected with ransomware is to fall for one of the oldest cyber-attack strategies in the book: the phishing attack. A phishing email (or, in this case, a ransomware email) is designed to trick a recipient into clicking a link and providing information, downloading an attachment, or delivering to a hacker what they need to break into your system.
Phishing was described in more detail in our last blog post but, as a refresher, the best way to avoid falling victim to a phishing attack is through vigilance. If you notice something strange about an email—misspelled words in an otherwise official-looking email, for instance—it is a good idea to double-check with the sender. In other words, if a credit card company you don’t use is asking for you to change your account password, it’s likely phishing. Report these attempts to your company’s IT support right away.
The Difference Between Phishing and Ransomware
Phishing is best thought of as the technique that hackers use to deliver their weapon: the ransomware infection. If you can avoid phishing attacks, the risk of becoming infected with ransomware is greatly reduced. No, phishing attacks aren’t the only way ransomware is spread, but anything you can do to mitigate risk is a good step. One of the best ways to do this is with proper training and policies.
Understanding ransomware is the first step to avoiding falling victim to an attack.
Training and education are the only surefire ways to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack. If employees know what to look out for and there are policies in place that make it clear what official communications will look like, the risk is dramatically reduced.
One way Virtual Technologies Group can help is by consulting on your overall technology strategy, including the policies and procedures surrounding your internal business communication. You can have the best cyber security solution available today and still experience a data breach if a single employee downloads a malicious attachment or gives away their login information.
When an Attack Gets Through
You’re facing the dreaded pop up with instructions on how to purchase cryptocurrency and then transfer it to a hacker. There may even be a threat that your data will be deleted if the ransom isn’t handed over by a deadline. This isn’t a situation you ever want to be in.
However, there are ways out. Virtual Technologies Group offers robust backup, recovery, and business continuity planning to help you recover quickly when an attack is successful. Think of us as your ransomware strategy provider. Essentially, what we’re offering is peace of mind. Connect with us today to learn how you can be protected from any cyber threat.