Ransomware is one of the most prominent threats businesses face in 2021. And as more hackers discover the lucrative possibilities of extorting money through data encryption, the prospects of ransomware becoming less prevalent are bleak at the very least.
But the good news is that with the right strategies, you can significantly reduce the risk of a ransomware attack and prepare an effective plan that helps you stay ahead of new ransomware technology.
Let’s look at the main aspects of ransomware you should be aware of below.
Ransomware 101: What is It?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to infect computer systems and encrypt files. The encryption is then used to extort money from businesses (or individuals) with the threat of the data being deleted, leaked, or otherwise compromised if the demands are not met.
Even though ransomware has been around for a while, it has really exploded in the last five years or so, with hackers becoming more aggressive and targeting large companies that might have seemed impenetrable before.
Just in 2021 alone, ransomware attacks have been successfully executed against companies like Acer, Quanta, the National Basketball Association, CBA, Kia Motors, and a long list of others. Some organizations refused to pay the ransom, but others had to spend millions of dollars to get the frozen data to be released.
With the pandemic forcing more people to work remotely, implementing cybersecurity measures has become increasingly difficult, further exacerbating the problem and creating more opportunities for hackers to break through the corporate firewall systems.
And today, hackers aren’t afraid to ask for exorbitant extortion fees, with many attempts reaching tens of millions of dollars. And for companies that risk losing sensitive data vital for running the business, that price can often seem justified.
Related post: Why You Need a Cyber Risk Assessment
Why Are Ransomware Attacks on the Rise?
In recent years, ransomware attacks have not only increased in prominence but also in frequency. That means that while larger companies are indeed being targeted more often, small businesses are also falling victim to ransomware attacks at a rapidly increasing rate, which is a worrying trend at a time when data privacy is becoming more critical than ever.
There was a 62% increase in cyber attacks between 2019 and 2020, and with businesses still scrambling to implement security systems that offer coverage for remote workers, that trend is set to continue.
But that’s just one of the reasons why ransom attacks are becoming so prevalent.
Another key reason behind the rise is the fact that companies are setting a bad precedent by agreeing to pay the ransom. On one hand, it makes sense that a company will pay as much as it takes to protect its customers and vital business data. But at the same time, the hefty extortion fees and the success that hackers are able to achieve has made it a lucrative opportunity for cyber criminals all around the world.
And where there’s an opportunity, there’s always an abundance of people who are willing to exploit it.
Then, the rise of cryptocurrencies has made it much easier to receive large amounts of money without being detected. For example, using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, hackers can receive fees from their ransomware attacks without using the banking system and maintaining anonymity.
Finally, as more ransomware attacks occur, the malicious software used in the attacks is becoming more sophisticated. And that means that even large companies with cutting-edge cybersecurity measures can’t feel safe unless they have a proven process for staying ahead of the technological curve.
Ways to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
Even though the threat of ransomware has to be accepted as a new reality of running a business, there are steps you can take to mitigate at least some of the risks and give yourself a better chance of keeping your data safe.
Let’s go over a few practical strategies for preventing ransomware attacks in your company below.
- Develop an Incident Response Plan. The best-case scenario is to avoid a ransomware attack in the first place, but you must have a plan of action in case it does happen. First, you’ll need to validate that the attack actually uses a ransom. If that’s confirmed, then you’ll need to figure out the exact steps you should take, who should be on the response team, develop a process for wiping the systems from malware and cut off access where possible, and have a way to quickly cooperate with law enforcement and cybersecurity experts.
- Educate Your Employees. The biggest ransomware risks are associated with your employees. Whether your team works in-office or remotely, they will usually be the ones exposed to ransomware attempts through malicious software. Therefore, you should prioritize educating your employees about the best practices of safely browsing the web. Some of the key topics you should cover include link safety, sharing personal information, email risks, and regularly updating the systems.
- Backup Your Data. Despite the rise in double extortion ransomware, backing up your data remains a crucial step in mitigating the risks associated with ransomware attacks. If you can quickly recover the data from another source, you will at least have the option of not paying the ransom if you can risk the hacker leaking the data to the public.
- Regularly Update Your Systems. Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities in software and systems that businesses use. And the only way to stay ahead of these attempts is to keep all of your systems up to date so that they can be patched against the new threats that can arise.
- Consult Experts. Anti-ransomware and cybersecurity experts might be your best bet if you want to give yourself the best chance of staying protected against ransomware attacks. They can not only help you implement the best practices related to cybersecurity but also provide you with the right identity and access management tools that will keep you and your employees safe.