How Does Ransomware Affect Businesses?
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Ransomware can damage businesses of all sizes. The effects of this type of cyberattack can bring operations to a halt, hurt your bottom line and even drag your company’s reputation down. The 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. There were nearly 156 million ransomware attacks in 2022, and in the same year, ransomware attacks accounted for over 68% of worldwide cyberattacks. Let’s look at ransomware attacks, computer virus protection and what you can do to avoid malware.
If you have concerns about ransomware or security threats against your business, contact Kirbtech online to get in touch with an expert.
What Is a Ransomware Attack?
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, which 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 computer viruses and typically infiltrates a device through 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 Is the Impact of a Ransomware Attack on Your Business?
The impact of a ransomware attack on your business goes far beyond the immediate cost of the ransom itself. Ransomware attacks can cause prolific damage to a business through elements like the following:
The time it takes to respond to ransomware can lead to significant revenue loss because when a business experiences a ransomware attack, operations will get put on hold. In some cases, the attack can bring a company to a full stop.
Some businesses might have to halt operations for weeks, during which time they cannot fulfill customer requests. Bouncing back and returning to daily operations after the attack is resolved might take even more time.
As a business, you build a strong reputation based on the quality of products and services you provide your customers. This positive reputation you might have spent years cultivating can be affected in a matter of seconds after a ransomware attack.
Interruptions to business proceedings, lost customer data and an IT hack reflect poorly on your company. Ransomware can considerably affect how your customers view your business and how trustworthy they believe you are.
Additionally, the impact of ransomware on businesses is not limited to customer relationships. It also affects how other companies perceive you. Service providers and prospective partners might hesitate to work with your company if they believe you do not have strict security and privacy practices.
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, small businesses are actually attacked more frequently than large companies. They’re pretty appealing targets because they usually have weaker technical safeguards and fewer resources dedicated to IT.
What’s the Difference Between Ransomware and Other Malware?
Malware is the larger category that ransomware belongs in. Malware encompasses 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 to Control and Prevent Ransomware Attacks
The best defense against ransomware is prevention, which can reduce the chances of experiencing ransomware attacks. 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 open the door, allowing vulnerabilities into your system. Be sure to update your hardware and software — especially security software — as soon as patches become available. Using old security features puts your business at risk, as ransomware is constantly evolving. When you don’t install security and system updates, you make it easier for attackers to bypass your security features.
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. At the most basic level, employees should be on the lookout for suspicious file names and use strong passwords.
4. Stay Up to Date
Another method of avoiding corporate ransomware attacks involves performing regular security testing to help keep you up to date on trends. 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 and implementing common security testing methods to achieve this goal.
5. Reset Passwords
The easiest way to prevent ransomware as a small business is to reset passwords frequently. Cybercriminals use passwords to gain access to your system, or they may steal and change credentials and hold your business hostage until you pay the ransom. Always use best password practices:
- Ensure your password is more than a few characters.
- Use a combination of letters and numbers.
- Use uppercase and lowercase letters.
- Avoid using the same password for multiple platforms.
How to Respond to Corporate Ransomware Attacks
Along with preventing attacks, you must know what to do if your company is attacked by ransomware. The usual advice for ransomware victims 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 varies 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 response plan to control the effects of ransomware.
1. Isolate the Device
When you identify or suspect ransomware on a device, investigate where the attack is from and quickly identify the affected systems. Investigating the impacted systems of the attack ensures that you minimize ransomware’s impact on your business.
After tracing the source of the attack, completely disconnect it from the rest of the network and any other equipment with access to it. Remember: 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. Sometimes, you can upload the file in question 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. If cybercriminals gain sensitive information from one of these groups, they could use it to do more harm.
It’s especially important to notify customers and stakeholders of ransomware attacks if they involve data theft. Regulations often require that you do this to remain compliant. Ensure that you report the attack to these parties within the necessary time frame.
Informing employees about ransomware attacks also prevents the attack from spreading. If, for instance, the incident happened due to a phishing attack, you would limit how many more employees fall for the same message.
4. Evaluate Your Backups
Criminals will try to attack as many systems as possible, which means they will target 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 with the right key. No More Ransom might have a decryption key, or you can reach out to a trusted IT partner to learn more about your options.
Whatever your plan looks like, fast response time is critical. Ensure employees know what to do when they uncover malware or suspicious situations, so IT can promptly address the issue and keep the ransomware at bay.
Stay Ahead of Ransomware With Kirbtech
No matter your business size, you can’t overlook the threat of ransomware. It has wide-reaching effects, including harming your reputation, losing access to resources, compromising compliance and hurting 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 complete list of services, or reach out to us to get started.