One thing that has grown at a similar rate as technology’s growth is the number and severity of cyber-attacks. The internet has become a battlefield between businesses and cybercriminals. From hacking to phishing, the number and types of security breaches and cyber-attacks keep rising with each passing year. One such security threat that is on the rise these days is ransomware.
If you are a business owner, you’re aware of the significance of data in today’s digital landscape. It is truly invaluable. In many ways, our most important resource. You simply can’t afford to lose your customers’, employees’, or company’s data, right? But protecting your data is not so simple today.
Have you ever imagined what would happen if someone took hold of your organization’s data and asked you to pay an insane amount of money just to get it back? Sounds frightening, right? Well, that’s what ransomware is all about.
Ransomware is a type of cybercrime where your sensitive data or your device is held hostage for ransom. If this happens, you have the option to either pay whatever amount the attacker is demanding or lose your valuable data forever.
Before we talk about how, you can safeguard your organization from ransomware, let’s understand what it is and how it affects modern-day business.
What is Ransomware and How is it Used to Attack Businesses?
As we said above, ransomware is a type of malware or malicious software that takes hold of your organization’s data or even the entire computer system. This is done either by blocking your access to the devices or by encrypting sensitive databases, files, and other information.
Ransomware attacks are a form of cyber extortion. The attacker demands the victim pay ransom money (usually in the form of cryptocurrencies) in exchange for releasing their data. However, this demand comes with a deadline. If the victim fails to pay the ransom on time, either the data will be destroyed, or the amount of the ransom will increase.
Generally, ransomware is sent your way through an email attachment. The ransomware would get activated as soon as you download it or click a link within the message. And once that happens, it quickly spreads across the entire network and your file server.
There are various types of ransomware present out there. However, there are two of them that are especially popular amongst hackers. Most cybercriminals use either of these two malicious software to attack businesses and cause trouble in their systems.
As the name itself suggests, it is a kind of ransomware that locks you out of your device. Locker ransomware partially blocks the functionality of your computer.
For example, an attacker can completely block access to your desktop while partially disabling the mouse and keyboard. This will enable the attacker to make the ransom demand to you via your monitor, and then allow you to use your keyboard and mouse to make the payment.
However, the good news is locker ransomware is the most ordinary and simplest form of malware. Thus, a good cyber expert can restore your access and help you with data recovery.
It is a kind of ransomware used to encrypt your business’s crucial data, including files, documents, videos, and more. Crypto ransomware does not disable your computer’s functioning. Instead, it is used to prevent you and your employees from accessing your organization’s data.
When crypto-ransomware is used, you will be able to see all the files, documents, and other information on your device. However, due to the malicious software, you won’t be able to access any of them.
The most problematic thing about crypto-ransomware is that your access cannot be restored without a unique decryption key that the hackers may or may not have.
As per reports, the total amount of ransom paid by ransomware victims reached almost $350 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2020. So today, ransomware has become a frightening and profoundly damaging and costly threat.
Worried that your business has been attacked by ransomware? Put an end to your dilemma by learning about the main symptoms of a ransomware attack.
What are the Symptoms Of a Ransomware Attack?
A ransomware attack can cause severe damage to your business and its reputation. If you have become a victim of it, feeling worried and hopeless is natural.
However, not all hope is lost! You can still control the situation by noticing the early symptoms and minimizing their impact. Here are some of the most common signs of a ransomware attack:
Increased suspicious login activities
Are you experiencing an unusual spike in the number of unsuccessful logins from different accounts? If yes, it can be a sign of someone trying to break into your network. Make sure to get this checked by security analysts before it results in a full-fledged malware attack.
Your computer is locked and has become inaccessible
This is the most common sign of locker ransomware infection. This type of ransomware locks your device and blocks your access to it. If you have been denied access to your computer and see a red lock screen on it, it’s a sign that you have fallen victim to ransomware.
This is one of the most prominent signs of a ransomware attack. The main purpose of ransomware is to encrypt your databases and prevent you from accessing them. So, when you are trying to open documents, photos, videos, etc., on your system, and Windows tells you that you don’t have permission to open them, it’s a sign of crypto-ransomware.
Irregular data extraction
Are you noticing an unusual extraction of data from your system? Has your team told you that several critical files are missing from that database? If yes, then it can be a huge sign of an upcoming ransomware attack!
Impacts Of a Ransomware Attack on Businesses
A ransomware attack can have catastrophic impacts on businesses of all sizes. Earlier, cybercriminals used to target multibillion-dollar organizations, law enforcement agencies, and other government agencies. They knew that these organizations could pay huge amounts of ransom money.
But today, small businesses are at a significantly higher risk. This is because most small businesses do not implement tight security measures like bigger organizations, making themselves more vulnerable to ransomware gangs.
Let’s go through some of the most severe risks and impacts of ransomware on a business.
A ransomware attack can cause a massive blow to your company’s financial resources. The attacker usually demands a very high amount of ransom (usually in millions) in exchange for your data.
In 2021, CNA Financial Group, a Chicago-based insurer, paid a staggering sum of $40 million to ransomware attackers. This was the biggest ransomware payout of 2021.
Similarly, Colonial Pipeline, the largest pipeline system for refined oil in the US, suffered a huge ransomware attack in May 2021. This resulted in a massive shortage of fuels all across the southeastern US. In addition, Colonial Pipeline was forced to pay $4.4 million as a ransom.
Long-term security risks
A ransomware attack poses long-term security risks for your business. Even after you pay the ransom to the attacker, there is no guarantee that the security breach will not happen again!
Loss of revenue and customers
A malware attack naturally slows down your working capacity. As a result, it can cause significant downtime, thereby reducing productivity and revenue.
Moreover, such attacks also make customers apprehensive about the safety of their data. So, they may decide to end their business relationship with you.
Defending Your Business Against Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks are not only a financial disaster, but they also weaken your business and make you lose credibility. You need to take every measure to protect your business’s data. Let’s see how you can do that.
Give extensive cybersecurity training to your employees. Teach them how to recognize online threats like malicious links, software, and phishing emails and report them immediately.
Make sure to constantly update your Operating System’s security patches to the latest version.
Keep a backup of your business’s critical data and store it in the cloud or on an external storage device. In this way, even if your system gets compromised because of ransomware, you will have all your data with you.
Nobody knows when you’ll become a victim of a ransomware attack. Thus, it is wise to always have an action plan in place. Make sure to have a full-fledged ransomware action plan to prepare everyone in your organization ahead of time.
Leverage a layered security approach. Use various online security tools, including firewalls, spam filters, anti-malware software, anti-virus software, etc., to protect your online safety. One of the best things you can do is partner with a trusted IT specialist who can create an individually tailored security plan for your organization and manage it completely.
Ransomware has become a major headache for modern-day businesses. And as technology continues to evolve with each passing day, cybercriminals are only going to get more sophisticated in their tactics.
Unfortunately, there is no way to stop ransomware attacks altogether. However, by staying vigilant and taking the right security measures, you can protect your business and prevent it from becoming a victim of such attacks.
Tech Masters helps small businesses protect their most important data with complete security plans. Connect with us today to learn more about protecting your business and upping your IT game for greater productivity.
Does ransomware affect the network?
Yes, ransomware can affect your business network. For example, it can spread through your company’s Wi-Fi network and infect all your computers.
What is the most common method of attack for ransomware?
The most common way cybercriminals deploy ransomware on your computer is through phishing emails containing malicious links or attachments.
Does ransomware steal data?
Most ransomware attacks are meant to encrypt your files or block your access to them in exchange for ransom money. Data theft is usually not involved in the process.
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