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AdobeStock_136782900 (1).jpegEarlier this year the ransomware known as “WannaCry” encrypted files on over 300,000 devices.  Everything from businesses to government agencies were attacked.  This particular cyberattack demanded a $300 ransom in order to restore the affected files.  WannaCry was the latest highly damaging attack that uses a strategy that is increasing in frequency.  In fact over the past year the number of ransomware attacks on businesses has increased over 300%.  At the end of 2016, companies were being hit with ransomware every 40 seconds, compared to every two minutes during the first quarter of 2016.  Why are these attacks happening more often, what do they mean for your business and data, and how can you stay protected? 

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that is designed to block access to a computer and its files until a specific sum of money is received.  This can be proprietary data, customer/client/patient information, or other sensitive and valuable materials.  When a ransomware attack takes place the software encrypts these files and sends you a message with the demands.  Typically $300 to $500 is the ransom, but there can be other conditions that can double the amount, like not paying within 24 hours.     

How do ransomware attacks occur?

Ransomware attacks are typically delivered by email.  Email is the most common vehicle for phishing attempts used by hackers and scammers.    These emails will have a malicious link included or a malware attachment.  When these links are clicked or the attachment is opened, the sender is given access to the device.  Once this is done, the malware encrypts the entire hard drive, including any personal or sensitive information.  Finally a warning screen will appear with the details of how to regain access to your files.

What can you do to protect your business from ransomware attacks?

The best strategy for protection against a ransomware attack is prevention.  Here are a few things you can do to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack.

  • Have a backup plan: While data backup is a critical element of any organization’s IT infrastructure, it is essential should any of your files become encrypted.  While cloud storage is the safest option, if you do use a local storage device or server it should be offline as to not be accessed by any potential malware.
  • Avoid suspicious emails and links: As stated earlier the preferred delivery of these attacks is email.  These phishing attempts contain compromised links and attachments that appear to be from reputable and trusted sources.  Training on how to recognize phishing attempts and how to tell the difference between legitimate email and a potential attack can be crucial in preventing a ransomware infection.
  • Keep your software up-to-date: Since malware uses flaws in third-party software to gain access to your network, keeping these programs updated with the latest technology and security is a must.  Regular maintenance and updates can prevent these ever-evolving threats.

Ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasing in sophistication and frequency means that your organization faces a potential breach around the clock.  Having an effective security and backup plan is no longer a luxury it is a necessity for businesses and offices of all sizes.  It is also important to understand the different threats that are out there, both in general and specific to your sector.  This is where a security assessment can ensure that you have all of the pieces in place to protect your information and your network. 

Learn More About How Ransomware Can Impact Your Business

About the Author

Shayne Reich is the President of Willow Bend Systems.

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