How Ransomware Can Negatively Affect Your Business
Ransomware can damage businesses of all sizes. It can bring operations to a halt, hurt your bottom line and even drag your reputation down. This type of malware hits your organization in a few different ways and can come from diverse sources, so it’s crucial to stay on top of it.
Ransomware isn’t going anywhere, either — its prevalence has more than doubled since 2020, and Verizon predicts it will only continue growing. Let’s look at ransomware attacks, computer virus protection and what you can do to avoid malware.
What Is Ransomware?
In a nutshell, ransomware involves holding the victim’s files hostage until they pay a fee to the attacker. Ransomware can proliferate across a network or device, quickly affecting your whole business. It can hit files of virtually any type, including documents, applications and databases. In many instances, it attacks the whole system, bringing entire organizations to their knees.
The process relies on encryption, which is necessary for most modern security strategies to protect data from unauthorized users. Encrypting a file generates a pair of keys. One of these is a decryption key, and it becomes the only way to access the file. Ransomware hackers use this technology maliciously to block the victim’s access to their files.
Ransomware works like other common computer viruses and typically infiltrates a device through methods like phishing, targeted hacks, stolen credentials, etc. Once it establishes a presence on the network, it searches through any file it can, encrypting along the way.
What’s the Difference Between Ransomware and Malware?
Malware is the larger category that ransomware belongs in, encompassing various malicious programs or files that intentionally harm a computer, server or network. Other common types of malware include Trojan horses, spyware and computer viruses.
How Does Ransomware Affect Businesses?
The cost of the ransom itself is far from the only effect of ransomware incidents. They can cause prolific damage to a business through elements like these.
The time it takes to respond to ransomware can lead to significant revenue loss. Shutdowns bring the entire business to a stop.
Interruptions to business proceedings lost customer data and an IT hack reflects poorly on the company. Ransomware can considerably affect how your customers view the business and how trustworthy they believe you are.
If a ransomware attack wipes out your data and you need to start over, it will probably take you some time to get back on your feet.
And these drawbacks don’t only affect large corporations. Many small- and medium-sized businesses mistakenly assume they aren’t big enough to be worth hacking. In reality, they’re pretty appealing targets because they usually have weaker technical safeguards and fewer resources dedicated to IT. The proportion of breaches affecting small businesses vs. large ones is increasing.
How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
The best defense against ransomware is prevention, which can either block or mitigate the effects of an attack. Follow these best practices to prevent ransomware attacks.
1. Back Up Your Data
Regular data backups significantly limit how much damage a ransomware attack can do. If your files get corrupted, you can restore them from your backup. Many businesses use the cloud for this, but you can also use external hardware. However you choose to back up files, you should isolate them from the primary network and use redundant strategies.
2. Update Your Software
Unpatched programs leave the door wide open, adding known vulnerabilities to your system. Be sure to update your hardware and software — especially security software — as soon as patches become available.
3. Educate employees
The human element is often the weakest link. Spend some time training employees on what ransomware and phishing attempts look like, so they can avoid them. They should also be on the lookout for suspicious file names and use strong passwords.
4. Stay Up to Date
Cybersecurity demands change rapidly. Stay abreast of industry trends, so you know what to look for and can spot new ransomware attacks. Try subscribing to cybersecurity blogs.
Related: How to Reduce Cyber Security Risks
How to Respond to a Ransomware Attack
Along with preventing ransomware, you need to have a plan in place if it affects your system. The usual advice for victims of ransomware is not to pay — you have no guarantee that the attackers will or can decrypt the files. Once you agree to pay, you label yourself as a high-value target to cybercriminals.
A successful response plan will vary from business to business, depending on factors like your IT landscape, budget and risk tolerance. Still, these are some steps you can expect in a typical ransomware response plan.
1. Isolate the Device
As soon as you identify or suspect ransomware on a device, completely disconnect it from the rest of the network and any other equipment with access to it. Still, just because a device has ransomware doesn’t mean it was the first one infected — look for other connected devices or parts of the network and isolate them, too.
2. Assess the Scope
Next, you’ll want to understand what you’re working with. Scan your devices — typically with security or antivirus software — and look for suspicious files. These might include recently encrypted files, ones with odd names or those that are challenging to open. Identify and disconnect any devices with possible ransomware. In some cases, you can upload an infected file to the website No More Ransom, a global initiative that can help identify and potentially decrypt files.
3. Report the Ransomware
Reporting ransomware to the authorities can help them stay on top of new threats and ideally find the attackers. You’ll also want to report the issue to employees, stakeholders and customers. In many cases, regulations require you to do this to remain compliant.
4. Evaluate Your Backups
If restoring from a backup, double-check that it’s clean. Don’t restore the backup until you’ve cleared out the ransomware infection.
5. Research Your Decryption Options
If you can’t restore a backup, don’t lose hope. You may still be able to decrypt the data. Some keys are available. No More Ransom might have a decryption key, or you can reach out to a trusted IT partner to learn more about your options. If you’re near Carlisle, Penn., we can help.
Whatever your plan looks like, fast response time is critical. Make sure employees know what to do when they uncover malware or suspicious situations, so IT can promptly address the issue and ransomware at bay.
Stay Ahead of Ransomware With Kirbtech
No matter what size your business is, you can’t overlook the threat of ransomware. It has wide-reaching effects, including your reputation, access to resources, compliance and, of course, profits. With the right technology and practices in place, you can better prevent and mitigate ransomware incidents.
Take the next step toward modernizing your IT with Kirbtech’s full-service and managed IT plans. We help SMBs cultivate a proactive response to malware, with comprehensive support for elements like system reviews, backup checks, 24/7 emergency support and antivirus management. We leverage our IT expertise with a passion for helping business owners succeed and enjoy peace of mind. See our full list of services or reach out to us to get started.