Why Ransomware Is A Serious Threat To Your Business

 

Ransomware is arguably the most notorious malware these days. Its kind has crippled countless systems in businesses, organizations, and large enterprises. One of the most recent ransomware attacks even managed to paralyze (albeit briefly) the office of California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, author of SB 1137, a bill crafted to outlaw this very same menace.

In this post, we talk about what ransomware is, how it threatens your business and what you can do to protect your digital assets from it.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware whose main characteristics involve locking up files or even entire computer systems and then demanding ransom. In most cases, the malware uses encryption as the locking mechanism while requiring electronic methods such as bitcoin, Ukash, or MoneyPak for the ransom payment.

End users whose systems have been infected mostly acquire the malware through malicious email attachments, online advertisements, pirated software, or (as was likely the case in the incident involving Senator Hertzber’s files) targeted attacks.

Because most victims pay, cyber criminals are making a killing carrying out ransomware attacks. A ransomware campaign has a low cost of entry, while offering a good return on investment. No wonder a far majority of malware dropped by exploit kits (tools used by cyber crooks to automatically find vulnerabilities in computers and drop malicious software) are ransomware.

Some of the biggest names in the ransomware family include: CryptoLocker, Reveton, CrypoWall, and CryptXXX.

Why it’s a threat to your business

A ransomware attack can cause major problems. First of all, there’s the ransom payment. The ransom can be quite expensive. For instance, in the case of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the Los Angeles hospital that got hit by ransomware, the ransom demand was originally tagged at 9,000 bitcoins or an astounding $3.6 million.

Eventually, the crooks settled for 40 bitcoins ($17,000) but just imagine how much more the loss would have been (although 17 grand isn’t cheap either).

Ransom payment is just a fraction of your worries. If the files that get locked up contain the only copies you have of your business-critical data, you could experience some serious downtimes. This could lead to delayed deliverables, lost opportunities, and a lot of irate customers and trading partners. Unless you’re able to unlock those files, those downtimes can quickly translate to financial losses.

As your downtime stretches, your problems could escalate exponentially. Some customers could transfer to your closest competitors. Worse, the incident could cause irreparable damage to your company’s reputation, significantly reducing your appeal to potential customers.

Protecting data against ransomware

Certain types of ransomware can be detected and destroyed by antivirus software. However, there are those really equipped with excellent evasion features that allow them to enter systems, connect with their command-and-control servers, and encrypt files before they’re discovered (which usually happens after they’ve already made their presence known).

One way to defend your business against ransomware is to educate your employees about their existence, how they infect and operate, and the best practices for countering them. Simple actions like: confirming whether an alleged email sender actually sent an email, avoiding pirated software, and reporting suspicious email attachments, can go a long way in preventing a ransomware infection.

Another effective countermeasure is keeping backups of your data. Of course, certain malware stay dormant for some time before activating, so some backups could already be contaminated. A backup system that will allow you to go back to certain points in time can help. Also, because some ransomware are capable of seeking out attached/ connected storage systems, your backups should be detached from your system.

Would you care for a quick chat on the risks of ransomware and how we can help you mitigate them? Contact us now.